Born in Leyden, Holland, Willem van de Velde the younger was considered the most accomplished marine painter of his generation. He studied under his father Willem van de Velde the elder who was also a marine artist, and later with Simon de Vlieger (c.1600-1653). In his early years van de Velde specialised in views of Dutch fishing boats at low tide on Holland's northern coast, but by 1672 he had settled in England, where he began to paint specific ships, such as royal yachts and men-o'-war, favouring storm and shipwreck subjects over calms. Both he and his father received commissions from the Duke of York and painted seascapes for King Charles II in 1674. Following the end of the Anglo-Dutch wars in 1674, he also painted sea battles for Dutch patrons, often working from sketches made by his father at sea.
In his catalogue raisonné of the works of the Willem van de Veldes, Robinson suggests that a version of this composition, sold at Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, in 1962, was 'painted substantially by the Younger' and dates it to circa 1700 (see M.S. Robinson, The Paintings of Willem van de Veldes, London, 1990, vol. II, p.1081, no.525). The present work is very similar in most respects, but is differentiated by the distinctive plain red 'command' flag at the foremasthead of the flagship. That which Robinson illustrates has no such flag at any of her mastheads and the vessel also reveals more of her port quarter than the markedly sharper view seen here. The current picture is also larger than the Robinson example and from these differences it may be inferred that it may be the prime version.