We are grateful to Dr. Jan Kelch who has confirmed the attribution on the basis of a transparency, and who regards it as an early work by the artist.
Arguably the most famous marine artist of the second half of the seventeenth century, Willem van de Velde II moved in circa 1648 to Weesp to study under Simon de Vlieger, whose subtle and atmospheric seascapes were a crucial influence on his previous experience of his father's more academic tradition. Back in Amsterdam by 1652, Willem II took up work in his father's studio, where his prodigious artistic talent rapidly became clear, with many of his celebrated calm scenes painted while he was still in his twenties. As noted by Dr. Kelch, the present work would appear to date from this period, when the influence of de Vlieger, in the restrained palette and subtle tonality of the picture, was still evident in Willem II's work. Father and son moved to England in 1672, around which time the subject-matter of Willem II's paintings underwent a marked change, with shipwreck and storm subjects tending to replace the calms of the 1660s.
On the basis of an old photograph in the Witt Library, London, Robinson (loc. cit.) wrote of this picture that it 'could be a late studio work or an eighteenth century copy', he also wrote that it 'would appear from the photograph to be of the English period'; given the unreliability of the evidence available to him, Robinson's opinion is understandable, but has been refuted by the present appearance of the picture in public for the first time since it was in the possession of Amabel, Countess de Grey and Baroness Lucas (1750-1833). Lady de Grey was herself a distinguished and enthusiastic collector; in addition, she inherited through her mother, Jemima, Marchioness Grey (1722-1797), the collection of pictures largely assembled by Anthony, 11th Earl Grey (1645-1702), and his son Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent (1671-1740), although it does not seem to be possible to ascertain by which member of the family the present picture was acquired.