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Jacob van Ruisdael, Vessels in a Fresh Breeze

Key facts
Full title Vessels in a Fresh Breeze
Artist Jacob van Ruisdael
Artist dates 1628/9? - 1682
Date made probably about 1660-5
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 44.5 × 54.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2567
Location Room 19
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Vessels in a Fresh Breeze
Jacob van Ruisdael

Jacob van Ruisdael painted many landscapes, but few marine pictures; the ones he did make are simply views of the sea off the coast of Holland, with small sailing vessels usually in a wind varying from fresh to gale force.

In this painting a small sailing vessel, probably a kaag (an inshore ferry boat) is driven before a fresh breeze under a vast, stormy sky, with a couple of passengers bundled up against the cold. A patch of blue sky suggests that the storm is passing, but it appears that the little boat will be under the clouds for a while as it races along keeping up with them. The vessel’s honey-coloured sails soften the starkness of the scene, making it seem an everyday journey that travellers by sea would be used to. The white sails of the boats speeding away from us give a sense of exhilaration rather than of bleakness or danger.

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