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Willem van de Velde the Younger

The sixth-rate Ship "Saudadoes" in a light Breeze

Willem van de Velde the Younger

Signed, lower left: W.V.Velde
On canvas, 13¼ x 16¼ ins. (35.5 x 41.2 cm)



Sale, Paris, Drouot Montaigne, 27 June 1939
With William Drown, London, 1956 (advertised in Connoisseur, December 1956)
Private collection, Paris, 1956-1989
Sale, Paris, Ader Picard Tajan, 27 June 1989, lot 39 (£32,914)
Where bought by Johnny Van Haeften Limited, London
With John Mitchell & Son, London, 1989, from whom purchased by the present owner
Private collection, England, 2017


M. Robinson, The Paintings of the Willem van de Veldes, 1990, p. 643, no. 764. 


Johnny Van Haeften Limited, London, Dutch and Flemish Old Master Paintings, Catalogue Seven, 1989, cat. no. 30


The greatest seventeenth-century Dutch marine painter, Willem van de Velde the Younger was born into a family with close ties to the world of shipping.  His grandfather was a skipper from Oostwinckel in Flanders and his father Willem van de Velde the Elder may have spent time at sea before embarking on a career as a marine artist.  Two of his uncles were also seamen.  Willem the Younger learnt the rudiments of painting from his father, a talented and prolific draughtsman, who specialised in the art of “pen painting” (penschilderijen).  Subsequently, he became a pupil of Simon de Vlieger, whose subtle, silvery-grey portrayals of ships beneath cloudy skies made a deep impression upon him.  On completing his training, Willem rejoined his father’s studio and worked in close partnership with him until the Elder’s death in 1693. 

This small ship portrait depicts an English vessel, identified by Robinson as the Saudadoes, running before a light breeze.  She flies a Union Jack at the fore and the red ensign at the stern.  The deck is crowded with figures and members of the crew are at work in the rigging.  Passing close on her port side and partially obscured by a cloud of white gun-smoke is a yacht, and further off to the right is a two-decker, seen from the stern.  There are other ships in the distance.  The scene is bathed in bright sunlight filtered through banks of cumulus clouds.  The painting dates from van de Velde’s English period, and was probably painted in the late 1670s  or early 1680s. 

The Saudadoes was built in 1670 for King Charles II’s wife Catherine of Braganza.  She was rebuilt in 1673 as a sixth-rate ship of 16 guns.  Two drawings in the National Maritime Museum show the ship from slightly different angles (accessions nos. PAH1830 and PAH1851).  One of them is inscribed by van de Velde the Younger “Sodato, quins vergadt” – the artist’s idiosyncratic interpretation of the ship’s name, followed by the qualification “queen’s yacht’.  According to Robinson, there are three other drawings of her at Greenwich (nos. 434, 512 and 1191) and another in the Prins Hendrik Museum, in Rotterdam (I).  Robinson records another painting of the same ship attributed to Isaac Sailmaker (ii). 

In 1672, the Van de Veldes, father and son, left Holland and moved to England.  The reasons for their move are fairly clear.  That year, the Rampjaar, or year of disaster, as the Dutch called it, had seen the French invasion of the Netherlands and the resulting collapse in the art market.  They must have felt that the prospects for employment were much brighter on the other side of the North Sea.  Furthermore, Willem the Elder had probably visited England a few years before and may already have established influential contacts in London.  In any event, father and son wasted little time in finding employment.  By 1673, Willem van de Velde was working for the Duke of Lauderdale, a close friend of the King, supplying landscapes for his bedroom at his country estate, Ham House, in Richmond, and in February 1674, the king “thought fit to allow the salary of One Hundred pounds per annum unto William Vandeveld the elder for taking and making Draughts of Sea Fights, and the like Salary of One Hundred pounds per annum unto William Vanderveld the younger for putting the said Draughts into Colours for our particular use” (iii)  The artists were also provided with a house in Greenwich and studio space in the Queen’s House. 

Evidently, life in England suited the van de Veldes well and, apart for brief visits to their homeland, they remained there for the rest of their lives, sharing the house and studio in Greenwich, until they moved to Westminster in 1691.  In a letter of 1674 from Pieter Blaeu (iv) to Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici, the former related that he had recently run into Willem the Elder in Amsterdam, where he had come briefly to collect his wife and was astonished by his “very fine clothing and very well-made wig.  Merely by looking at him you could see that he was lacking for nothing” (v).


The second child of the marine artist of the same name, Willem van de Velde the Younger was baptised in Leiden on 18 December 1633.  By 1636, the family had settled in Amsterdam where another son, Adriaen, who became a noted landscape artist, was born.  Willem the Younger probably first studied with his father and then, according to Houbraken, he became the pupil of Simon de Vlieger, probably in Weesp (vi) where the artist had settled in around 1648-50.  It was to a girl from Weesp, Petronella Le Maire, that the Younger was married in Amsterdam on the 18 December 1652.  The marriage did not last long before Willem brought proceedings against his wife with de Vlieger testifying on his behalf.  In 1666 Willem married for a second time to Magdalena Walravens and the couple had six children, of whom three sons, Willem III, Cornelis and Peter became painters.  Willem remained in Amsterdam until the Third Anglo-Dutch War and the French invasion of 1672, when the art market collapsed and father and son emigrated to England.  In the following year Willem is recorded painting sopraporte for Ham House and, in 1674, father and son entered the service of Charles II.  The warrant of appointment states that each was to be paid a salary of one hundred pounds a year, the father for “taking and making of Draughts of seafights” and the son for “putting the said Draughts into Colours” (vii), in addition to which they received payment for their pictures.  Except for brief visits to Holland, the van de Veldes stayed in England for the remainder of their lives, sharing a home and studio in the Queen’s House, Greenwich, until they moved to Westminster in 1691.  Willem the Elder died there in 1693 and his son, who outlived him by fourteen years, died on 6 April 1707 and was buried next to his father in St. James’s Church, Piccadilly.


i.  M. Robinson, The Paintings of the Willem van de Veldes, 1990, p. 643. 
ii  Robinson, op. cit, pp. 966-7, cat. no. 788,. 
iii Robinson, op. cit, 1990, vol. I, p. xii. 
iv  Peter Blaeu, who was the son of the famous publisher Johannes Blaeu, acted as Willem van de Velde’s agent in Amsterdam. 
v  For the correspondence between Blaeu and Medici see: H. Geisenheimer, “Beiträge zur Geschichte des niederländischen Kunsthandels in der zweiten Hälfte des XVII Jahrhunderts”, Jahrbuch der
  Preuszischen Kunstsammlungen
, XXXII (1911), p 47.  vi  Arnold Houbraken, De Groote  Schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders, vol. 2, p.325.  De
  Vlieger had been a neighbour of the van de Velde family in Amsterdam before moving to Weesp. 
vii  Public Record Office, London, February 1673/4, King’s Bills, S07/40. 

Willem van de Velde the Younger

Leiden 1633 - 1707 London

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