The present picture is a typical example of the small-scale calm scenes with shipping that earned Willem van de Velde a considerable reputation in his native country. Fishing boats and other vessels are shown at low tide on sand flats off the Dutch coast in a manner reminiscent of such works as the Calm in the Wallace Collection, London, (P143), or the picture sold at Sotheby's, London, 11 December 2003, lot 71. The artist is thought to have begun painting such scenes in the early to mid-1650s and many of his most celebrated calms were executed while still in his twenties. He made a speciality of them for at least a decade, returning to the theme less frequently in later years. They were revered for their compositional unity, their detailed drawing and above all, for their serene atmospheric effects, all qualities that are in evidence in the present work.
While no other version of this picture is known, the composition is similar to other calms from the 1660s which seems a plausible date for the present work. Robinson (loc. cit.) considered this a studio work 'with little help from the master' and proposed a later dating of circa 1700. His doubts about the picture can perhaps be explained by his failure to see the signature which has now been analysed and proven to be authentic.
Professor Jan Kelch, to whom we are grateful, regards the picture as autograph on the basis of a transparency.