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Jan van de Cappelle, Vessels in Light Airs on a River near a Town

Key facts
Full title Vessels in Light Airs on a River near a Town
Artist Jan van de Cappelle
Artist dates 1626 - 1679
Date made probably 1645-55
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 37.5 × 48.6 cm
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG964
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Vessels in Light Airs on a River near a Town
Jan van de Cappelle

In the grey early light of morning, on a glassy sea, the boats in van de Cappelle’s painting hardly seem to move. There’s no wind, the sails are hardly filled, nothing disturbs the water. Even the clouds seem buoyed up in the air like balloons bouncing along gently in the vast sky.

Close to us, an old fence has collapsed. It’s as if the tide has swept it away to give us a better view of the tranquil scene: fishermen in small craft almost as motionless as the water, waiting for a catch, and a boat with its topsail hoisted to catch what little breeze there is. On the left is a smallschip (a small craft designed for sailing close to shore) with the Dutch flag hanging limp. Far away on the right is the tower of a church that resembles Saint Lawrence’s in Rotterdam.

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