Executed on a small scale, this painting testifies to Ruysdael’s consummate use of wet-in-wet brushwork to create subtle, atmospheric light effects. Though influenced by the tonal landscapes of the slightly older Jan van Goyen, to whom this painting was once attributed, here Ruysdael succeeded in introducing subtle color variations to the predominantly gray tonality. Like van Goyen, whose paintings frequently employ a pronounced diagonal to create a sense of movement, Ruysdael has here aligned the various boats in a manner that recedes from the lower left foreground to the middle right background.
Evidently unknown to Wolfgang Stechow, this painting belongs to a small group of fewer than a dozen works by Ruysdael on a circular panel. With two exceptions, the format tended to be employed for marine subjects dotted with one or more small vessels. Though it is difficult to establish a firm date for this painting, the expressive outlines and broad painterly strokes are characteristic of Ruysdael’s mature work from the mid-1640s on.