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Jan van de Cappelle, A River Scene with Dutch Vessels Becalmed

Key facts
Full title A River Scene with Dutch Vessels Becalmed
Artist Jan van de Cappelle
Artist dates 1626 - 1679
Date made about 1650
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 112 × 153.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Lord Revelstoke, 1929
Inventory number NG4456
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A River Scene with Dutch Vessels Becalmed
Jan van de Cappelle

Although the many craft in this picture are humble inshore vessels, Jan van de Cappelle’s vision turns their sweeping curves and luminous reflections into a majestic panorama. The sky takes up almost two thirds of the picture, but the soft, grey, formless clouds do nothing to detract from the forest of sails painted in browns, ochre and sudden touches of white that the sun catches and turns pale gold.

To the right and close to us is a small flat-bottom vessel carrying turf or peat. The strange looking contraption beneath the flag appears to be a rudder, possibly tacked together by the men whose washing hangs out on a boom over the water.

Although one of the leading seventeenth-century Dutch marine painters, van de Cappelle was also a successful merchant. After 1653, he concentrated mainly on his business, almost giving up painting altogether.

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