The 'Prince Friso' under Tow off a rocky Coast
Adriaen Cornelisz. van Salm
Signed, lower left on a piece of driftwood: A. Salm
Oil on panel, 18⅞ x 26⅜ ins. (48 x 67 cm)
Inherited by the present owner from his father-in-law Nico Eyken Sluyters, Wassenaar,
in the early 1960s, in whose family the picture had been for at least two generations
Private collection, The Netherlands, 2019.
We are extremely grateful to Dr. Remmelt Daalder, former senior curator at Het Scheepvaart Museum, Amsterdam, whose research has identified the subject depicted here.
Adriaen van Salm was born in Delfshaven, near Rotterdam, and lived there for most of his life. Like many seventeenth-century artists, he had more than one occupation. As a young man he worked as a schoolteacher and later as a cloth merchant, only registering as a “master draughtsman” in the Delft Guild of St. Luke relatively late in life. He specialised in marine pen paintings (penschilderij) in the tradition of Willem van de Velde the Elder (1611-1693). Although best known for his scenes of whaling, his repertoire of marine subjects includes naval battles and views of shipping in estuaries and coastal waters, some with views of Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the background. He evidently had quite a reputation since Tsar Peter the Great apparently commissioned him to make views of Amsterdam and Archangel, which are today in The Hermitage, St. Petersburg (i).
A particularly fine example of van Salm’s work, this fascinating painting depicts a highly unusual subject – the aftermath of an extreme weather event. A small convoy of Dutch ships is shown, sailing in choppy seas off a rocky coastline. Three ships, seen from astern, appear in the foreground. Leading the trio is a merchant ship, the D’Hoop, followed by another, the D S’Anthony, which is towing a badly damaged man of war, bearing the name Prins Friese, (or Prins Frieso) in a banderole on his elaborately carved stern. The warship has lost its masts and most of its rigging. Five more ships can be seen in the background, two of which have been similarly damaged and are now under tow. All the ships fly the Dutch flag.
We are extremely grateful to Dr. Remelt Daalder, former curator at Het Scheepvaart Museum, in Amsterdam, who has been able to identify with reasonable certainty the chain of events that lie behind this painting. The key to the identification lies in the warship, Prins Friese, or Prins Frieso, which is given great prominence in the foreground. Two ships by the name of Prins Friso are documented: both were named after the later Frisian Stadholder Johan Willem Friso of Nassau-Dietz (1687-1711), who drowned in the Hollands Diep in 1711. The first, built in 1693, was 135 feet in length, and armed with 56 cannon. However, the ship saw active service only very briefly as it was captured by the French shortly after its first action in combat at the Battle of Texel on 29 June 1694, and was subsequently sailed to Dunkirk (then under French control). It is last mentioned in 1696.
The second ship of that name was built in Harlingen between 1693 and 1694 with finance from the States General. The ship was probably already under construction when its namesake was captured by the French and was thus given the name of that ship. A warship of the 3rd charter, measuring 145 feet in length, the second Prins Friso had 64-68 cannon and a crew of 310. Like its predecessor, the ship saw active service during the Nine Years’ War (1688-1697), during which time the Dutch Republic was at war with France. The ship was finally auctioned in Harlingen in 1721, presumably for demolition.
Dr. Daalder reasoned that the Prins Friso in this painting is not the one captured by the French at the Battle of Texel and taken to Dunkirk since the ship portrayed here is plainly in no condition to sail itself, but is under tow. A small foresail has been hoisted only to make the ship more manageable. Also the ships taking part in the tow all fly the Dutch flag, not the French, which at that time was the white flag of the Bourbons. Furthermore, the profile of the coastline seen in the distance bears no resemblance to that of the coast between Texel and Dunkirk. However, he found convincing evidence that the ship depicted by van Salm is the second Prins Friso. First of all, both the size of the ship and the number of cannon seem to tally with the ship built in Harlingen in 1693-94, but, much more significantly, that Prins Friso formed part of a squadron of nine warships, under the command of Vice Admiral Geleyn Evertsen (1655-1721) which, together with six English warships, accompanied a large fleet of Dutch and English merchantmen to Portugal and Cadiz in 1696. On this deployment the Prins Friso was captained by Willem Joseph Baron van Ghent, Jr., (1672-1732), son of the more famous admiral of the same name, who had fallen at the Battle of Solebay in 1672. The fleet departed on 13 November, but not long into the voyage, it began to experience adverse weather conditions. The journey is described by the 19th-century historian J. C. de Jonge in his Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche zeewezen as follows:-
“The fleet enjoyed a favourable wind for only a few days, but from then on struggled constantly with headwinds and very rough weather, which on the 27th, just as the fleet reached Cape Finisterre, degenerated into a violent storm that lasted with more or less intensity for almost four weeks, such that Vice Admiral Evertsen was moved to write that “in all his years at sea, he had not encountered such a lengthy storm” and Anthony Pieterson, [captain of the Hollandia, one of the convoy of ships] reported “that all the sailors were unanimous that they had never experienced such an intense and prolonged period of stormy weather”. As a consequence, the squadron and the entire merchant fleet were dispersed and scattered: not a single Dutch or English warship remained undamaged and three English merchant ships fell prey to the waves”(ii).
Research into the two merchant vessels depicted in the foreground did not provide any supporting evidence, largely because the names De Hoop and De Anthony were both common ships’ names at that time. However, according to a report in the Haerlemsche Courant, a ship by the name of De Hoop was among the merchant ships that left Cadiz in March 1697, although there is no evidence that it had been involved in towing the Prins Friso a few months earlier (iii).
The accounts detailed above provide compelling evidence that van Salm’s pen painting represents vessels battered by the severe storms of November 1696. He has clearly shown the dismasted Prins Friso under tow, as well as other seriously damaged ships, against a coastline which is probably intended to be that of northern Spain, around Finisterre. Furthermore, Dr. Daalder conjectured somewhat cautiously that the ship seen in the background, with a very long pennant flying from its mainmast, could be the flagship of Admiral Evertsen, the Walcheren. Although it is possible that the Prins Friso was involved in a similar storm later in its career, the ship does not appear to have served in the last months of the Nine Years’ War and is not mentioned again in the documents until the announcement of its sale in 1721.
A painting of this type which relates to a contemporary event was probably a specific commission from the artist rather than a product for the open market. The patron for such a work was most likely somebody with a close connection to the disastrous voyage of 1696 who wished to record it for posterity. Given the prominent position of the Prins Friso in the painting, the most likely candidate is the ship’s captain Willem Joseph Baron van Ghent, Jr. As an employee of the Admiralty of Rotterdam, he would have been well placed to receive a tip off about the gifted marine draughtsman Adriaen van Salm from nearby Delfshaven. Alternatively, van Salm’s patron could have been one of the skippers of the merchant vessels involved in the heroic rescue and recovery of the storm-battered vessels. The painting most likely dates from shortly after the event around 1697-1700.
Van Salm’s talent for penschilderij, the technique of drawing with pen and Indian ink onto a prepared oil ground, has attracted comparisons with Willem van de Velde the Elder, who is credited with initiating the tradition of pen-drawn seascapes on panel or canvas. The technique, however, probably had its origins in the work of the Dutch draughtsman, painter and engraver Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617), who in the last years of the sixteenth and the early seventeenth centuries created figural compositions using pen and ink on oil-primed canvases to simulate the characteristics of engravings. Although it is unlikely that van de Velde knew Goltzius’s works, he may well have been aware of the technique which is described by the art theorist Karel van Mander in his Het Schilder-Boeck of 1604 (“Goltzius took to drawing with a pen on canvases primed or prepared with oil paint…” (iv)). In the second half of the seventeenth century the technique was reserved almost exclusively for marine subjects. In their own day, artists who practised the technique were generally referred to as ‘draughtsmen’ rather than ‘painters’. Willem van de Velde, for example, styled himself ‘Ship draughtsman’(v). In the seventeenth century, pen paintings were greatly admired for their virtuosity and illusionism.
Based on the report by Dr. Remmelt Daalder, February 2019.
Adriaen van Salm’s precise date of birth in Delfshaven is unknown, although it is believed to have been around 1657 (vi). On 16 June 1686 Adriaen Cornelisz. Salm, described as a resident of Delfshaven, married Annetje Roelofs van der Veur of Schoonderloo in the village of Charlois, near Rotterdam. Their first child was christened four months later in the reformed church in Delfshaven. The couple were to have nine children, of whom five were still alive at the time of their father’s death in 1720. In the year of his marriage, Salm took up a teaching post in Schoonderloo. By 1693, he was living in Delfshaven again, where he worked as a teacher as well as becoming a member of the local civic militia, serving first as a pikeman and from 1709 onwards as a corporal. On 19 October 1706 he joined the Guild of St. Luke in nearby Delft, registering as a ‘master draughtsman’. He continued living in Delfshaven, but gave up teaching to work as a textile merchant, with a shop on the Oude Haven in Delfshaven. He died and was buried in Delfshaven in 1720. An inventory of the contents of his estate drawn up barely a week after his death shows that he was a moderately prosperous man.
The artist is named in some documents as “Salm” and in others as “Van der Salm”. His son Roelof van Salm (1688-1765) also became a painter and worked in a similar style to his father (vii).
i Inv. nos. 441-zj & 442-zj. The Tsar also owned a book of drawings by van Salm.
ii Johannes Cornelis de Jonge, Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche zeewezen (tweede druk, Haarlem 1858), III, 511. De Jonge also mentions the names of the captains. According to Doek Roos, that storm took place during the homeward journey in March 1697, but De Jonge's description is more consistent. Doeke Roos, Twee eeuwen varen en vechten (1550-1750). Het admiralengeslacht Evertsen (Vlissingen 2003), 384.
iii Oprechte Haerlemsche Courant, 11 April 1697
iv Karel van Mander, Het Schilder-Boeck, Haarlem, Alkmaar, 1604, fol. 285r.
v See: Friso Lammertse, ‘… What one can do with a pen’: pen paintings of maritime scenes in Jeroen Giltaij & Jan Kelch, Praise of Ships and the Sea: The Dutch Marine Painters of the 17th century, exh. cat., Rotterdam & Berlin, 1997, pp. 45-51.
vi On the basis a document in the Rotterdam Municipal Archives, dated December 1717, which states that Salm “aged 60 [was] granted leave to retire”. Giltaij/Kelch 1996, p. 462 note 6, concluded that he was born in 1657, or perhaps December 1656.
vii Biographical information based on the biography in Jeroen Giltaij & Jan Kelch, op. cit., 1997, p. 463.
Adriaen Cornelisz. van Salm
(c. 1657 - Delfshaven - 1720)
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