Willem van de Velde the Younger

Leiden 1633 - 1707 London

A Calm: a 'Kaag' alongside a 'Smalschip' at Anchor

Signed with monogram, lower right on a piece
of driftwood: W VV
Oil on canvas, 13⅜ x 14⅛ ins. (34 x 37.8 cm)
Framed: 18½ x 20¼ ins. (47 x 51 cm)
VP5047

Provenance

H.R.H. Charles Ferdinand de Bourbon, duc de Berry, Palais de l'Élysée, Paris, voor 1820
H.R.H. Marie Caroline de Bourbon, duchesse de Berry, Château of Rosny-sur-Seine, 1820-1837
Sale, Christie's, London, April 1834, no. 72
Sale, Galerie du Palais d’Elysée, Bataillard and Paillet, Paris, 4-6 April 1837, lot 74
Johan Steengracht van Oostcapelle, 1837-1846
Hendrik Steengracht van Oosterland, 1846-1875
Hendricus Adolphus Steengracht van Duivenvoorde, 1875-1912, until 1913
Sale, Galerie George Petit, Paris, 9 June 1913, lot 77 (sold to Stettiner)
European noble collection, Switzerland, until 2022
Anon. sale, Christie’s, London, 8 December, 2022, lot 23.


Literature

J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French painters, London 1835, XI, pp. 385-86, no. 230
J. Smith, Supplement to the Catalogue Raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French painters, London 1842, IX, p. 767, no. 38
J. Cassell (publisher), The Works of Eminent Masters, London 1854, I, p. 55
T. van Westrheene, ed. Kunstkroniek, Leiden 1857, XVIII, p. 50, ill.
J.F. van Someren, Oude Kunst in Nederland, Amsterdam 1890, ill.
E. Michel, Les artistes célèbres, les van de Velde, Paris 1892, p. 127
G. Lafenestre and E. Richtenberger, La peinture en Europe: la Hollande, Paris 1898, pp. 161-62
C.G. ‘t Hooft, Vereeniging tot Bevordering van beeldende kunsten: verzameling Jhr. Steengracht van Duivenvoorde, Amsterdam 1899, no. 12, ill.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch painters of the seventeenth century, London 1923, VII, pp. 86-87, no. 313
M. Robinson, Van de Velde: A catalogue of the paintings of the Elder and the Younger Willem van de Velde, London 1990, I, p. 389, no. 745
A. de Vries, Passie voor schilderijen, de verzameling Steengracht van Duivenvoorde, Leiden 2012, p. 104, no. 79, ill.


Essay

Born in Leiden as the son of the marine painter Willem van de Velde the Elder (1611-1693) and Judith van Leeuwen, Willem van de Velde the Younger and his family soon moved to Amsterdam, where his brother, the painter Adriaen van de Velde (1636-1672) was born. Around 1648 Willem was apprenticed to the marine painter Simon de Vlieger (1601-1653) in Weesp, who’s monochrome colouring made a lasting impression on him. Back in Amsterdam, Willem took up work in his father’s studio. The two worked closely together. After the disastrous rampjaar 1672 father and son moved to England, where they continued their prosperous career. Willem van de Velde the Younger is commonly regarded as the best marine painter of the Dutch Golden Age.

This serene and poetic A Calm is a refined early work, painted while the artist was still in his twenties. In this painting, three men launch a weyschuit in the right foreground, aground on a sandbank near a small withy marking the spit of sand. To their left, a kaag comes alongside a smalschip at anchor, with their sprit-sails slack and their crews conversing. It is against the backdrop of airy, cumulous clouds that the water mirrors their forms under the light of a late afternoon, washing in broad ripples towards the viewer. Offshore to the right, a man-of-war sits broadside, with her bows to the right, firing a gun to starboard, with other vessels in the distance.

Dating to circa 1660, it allows for a vivid appreciation of van de Velde’s skilful technique and unique ability to render light and atmosphere. Arguably the most famous marine painter of the second half of the seventeenth century, Willem van de Velde the Younger moved to Weesp in circa 1648. There, he is thought to have studied under Simon de Vlieger, whose subtle and atmospheric seascapes were a crucial influence alongside the more academic training of his father, Willem van de Velde the Elder. Back in Amsterdam by 1652, Willem the Younger took up work in his father's studio, where his prodigious talent rapidly became clear. It is at this time that he began painting scenes such as this one, no doubt inspired both by De Vlieger, and also by Jan van de Cappelle (1624-1679).

Not seen on the market for over a century, and with particularly distinguished provenance, this picture’s first recorded owner was Charles-Ferdinand de Bourbon, duc de Berry, the son of King Charles X of France, who was a keen patron of the arts and assembled an important collection of pictures at his residence, the Elysée Palace (now the residence of the President of France). In 1816, he married Princess Marie-Caroline de Bourbon, daughter of King Francis II of Naples. After the duc's assassination in 1820, Marie-Caroline, who was painted by François Pascal Simon, baron Gérard (1820) and Sir Thomas Lawrence (1825; both Château de Versailles), found solace in the arts, buying primarily contemporary French art. Much of the collection was moved to her principal residence, the château de Rosny-sur-Seine, which her husband had purchased for her in 1818, and which was filled with the finest furniture of the age. The picture collection, of which the majority of the Old Masters had been acquired by her late husband, included works such as Isaac van Ostade's Halt at the Inn, Jan van der Heyden's Architectural capriccio (both Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art), Aelbert Cuyp's Avenue at Meerdervoort, Paulus Potter's Cattle in stormy weather (both London, Wallace Collection), Frans van Mieris' Pictura (Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum) and Willem van de Velde the Younger's Dutch vessels close inshore at low tide, men bathing (London, National Gallery). Other remnants of the de Berrys' celebrated collections of pictures, jewellery, furniture and porcelain can be seen at château de Rosny-sur-Seine and in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Bordeaux. Marie-Caroline was driven into exile by the July Revolution of 1830 and much of what she owned was dispersed in sales or among her Austrian and Italian descendants. This painting was subsequently acquired by the great collector Johan Steengracht van Oostcapelle, who became the first director of the Mauritshuis and was considered among the foremost art connoisseurs in the Netherlands. He formed a renowned collection of seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, many of which were exhibited in a private picture gallery on the Lange Vijverberg in The Hague, which opened to the public in 1823. These paintings passed through his family before being sold in a landmark sale at Galerie Georges Petit in Paris in 1913.

A lithograph after the present painting was made by Adolf Carel Nunnink between 1826 and 1833 in The Hague. This work is in the Ottema-Kingma Stichting, located at the Fries Scheepvaart Museum in Sneek.[i]

BIOGRAPHY

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[ii] 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”[iii], 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.

Willem van de Velde the Younger was hugely influential for later generations of marine artists.  He had a number of pupils, including two of his sons, Isaac Sailmaker, Jacob Knyff, Peter Monamy and Charles Brooking, as well as followers and emulators, who perpetuated his style well into the eighteenth century.  His remarkable achievements in marine art were later to serve as an inspiration for his most celebrated admirer, J. M. W. Turner.




[i]  Ink on paper, 33.5 x 25.5 cm., inv.no. 14943.
[ii]  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. 
[iii]  Public Record Office, London, February 1673/4, King’s Bills, S07/40.