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Jan van de Cappelle, 'A Coast Scene', about 1650-5

Key facts
Full title A Coast Scene, with a Small Dutch Vessel landing Passengers
Artist Jan van de Cappelle
Artist dates 1626 - 1679
Date made about 1650-5
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 59.5 × 79.2 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2586
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Coast Scene
Jan van de Cappelle

A quiet sea under a vast sky. In spite of the calm, there’s a light wind. Grey clouds billow, with enough breaks to cast a luminous light on the water. Two slender poles in midstream mark the safe course up the river at low water, their reflections long because of the angle of the sun. The sails of a small boat fill as it heads out from harbour.

The new-found wealth of the Dutch Republic came over the sea, largely from the East and West Indies, brought in on great merchant ships. But van de Cappelle usually confined himself to the vaulted skies, flat landscape and domestic shipping of the Netherlands that he shows in this picture. Using cool colours and a limited palette he captures the pearly light of the estuary in a composition that’s harmonious but at the same time brooding and atmospheric.

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