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Jan van de Cappelle, A Small Dutch Vessel before a Light Breeze

Key facts
Full title A Small Dutch Vessel before a Light Breeze
Artist Jan van de Cappelle
Artist dates 1626 - 1679
Date made probably about 1645-55
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 44.3 × 55.6 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2588
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Small Dutch Vessel before a Light Breeze
Jan van de Cappelle

From the mouth of a harbour or estuary, Jan van de Cappelle subtly leads our eye out to sea. A couple of fishermen are working with nets in the shallow waters of the foreground while the ship in the centre, flying the red and white flags of the city of Dordrecht, sets out.

It is a wijdschip (a type which worked in coastal waters) and it may be carrying, or preparing to unload, cargo from the ship in the distance which appears to be hove to – that is, its sails set to keep it steady and stationary. This is a much larger, three-masted fluitschip, the most important merchant vessel of the time and used for trading with the East Indies, which was the source of much of Holland’s wealth during the seventeenth century. It too flies a Dordrecht pennant at its masthead, though the colours of the huge flag on the stern are unclear.

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