According to Arnold Houbraken, Bakhuizen was a pupil of the marine painters Hendrick Dubbels and Allaert van Everdingen. He was a recognised marine painter by 1658, the year in which he painted the background with ships for Bartholomeus van der Helst's Portrait of a Lady (Brussels, Musée des Arts Anciens, inv. no. 2942), although he did not join the Amsterdam guild of painters until 1663. Thereafter, however, his fame as a marine specialist was rapidly established, winning him, for example, the commission in 1665 from the burgomasters of Amsterdam of a View of Amsterdam and the IJ (Paris, Louvre, inv. no. 988), intended as a diplomatic gift for Hugues de Lionne, King Louis XIV's Foreign Minister, to impress him with the military and commercial might of the city.
With the resumption of hostilities between the Netherlands and England in 1672, the Willem van de Veldes moved to England, and Bakhuizen became the leading marine painter in the Netherlands. His success brought him to the attention of many of the leading patrons of Europe including, according to Houbraken, Grand Duke Cosimo III de' Medici, King Frederick I of Prussia, the Elector of Saxony, and Tsar Peter the Great, who all visited his studio. Indeed Peter the Great was reputed to have taken drawing lessons from him.
Unlike the Van de Veldes, who were more concerned with representing the technical aspects of sailing vessels and naval battles, Bakhuizen depicted the perpetually changing climate and the magnificent skies of the Netherlands. Much of his work, moreover, and including the present picture, glorifies Amsterdam and the mercantile trade that had made it great. With that aim in mind, he made his first etchings in 1701 at the age of 71, as he proudly stated on the title page of D'Y stroom en zeegezichten ('Views of the River IJ and the sea'): a series of harbour scenes preceded by a representation of the Maid of Amsterdam in a triumphal chariot.
This lively seascape by Bakhuizen depicts the River IJ in Amsterdam, with a view of the harbour of Amsterdam with 's Lands Zeemagazijn (the Arsenal, which now houses 'het Scheepvaartmuseum') to the left. This building was designed as a storehouse for the Admiralty of Amsterdam and built in 1656 when Amsterdam was the largest port and market place in the world. Next to the shipyard for the Admiralty of Amsterdam we can see the Oosterkerk, the Montelbaanstoren, the Oude Kerk and the City Hall (now the Royal Palace). The ship depicted to the left is the 'Kattendyck', a 759-tonne East Indiaman, built at Middelburg in 1694. In service of the VOC chamber of Amsterdam, on 22 July 1702 she arrived from Batavia at Texel, as depicted by Bakhuizen in a painting now in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (inv. no. NGI.173). The present work shows her in the Amsterdam harbour, being send-off on her next voyage to Batavia.
The painting dates to 1703, toward the end of Bakhuizen's career, when he had foregone the silvery-grey tonality and monochromatic works of his earlier career in favour of a lighter palette with brighter colours, as is visible here. The present lot exemplifies Bakhuizen's development to depicting his figures on a continuously growing scale. Here, the large figures in the foreground, fluently modelled and painted in fused colours, have nothing in common anymore with Bakhuizen's animated and polished figures from his early and mid-term phase. The idly sitting figure, in terms of its design and pose, is clearly early 18th Century. It also shows that Bakhuizen in his later years was still in touch with the 'zeitgeist'.
According to Gerlinde de Beer this painting shows the successful motifs and characteristics of the late style of Ludolf Bakhuizen. It also confirms that Bakhuizen, at the age of 73 years, had by no means lost his brilliant painting technique. Different materials, directly juxtaposed, such as the surging shore waters and the yacht, the transparently painted illuminated flag, the billowing sails, the delicately painted smoke of the gun salute, as well as the way these elements are carefully positioned in lights and shades, are the unmistakable qualities of the genius of Ludolf Bakhuizen.
We are grateful to Dr. Gerlinde de Beer for her help in cataloguing this lot, on the basis of photographs.