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Willem van de Velde, An English Vessel and Dutch Ships Becalmed

Key facts
Full title An English Vessel and Dutch Ships Becalmed
Artist Willem van de Velde
Artist dates 1633 - 1707
Date made about 1660
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 22.7 × 27.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1871
Inventory number NG874
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
An English Vessel and Dutch Ships Becalmed
Willem van de Velde

In this picture, Willem van de Velde the Younger displays his skills as an exceptionally gifted painter of ships. Each vessel here is accurately depicted. An English ketch in the foreground flies the flag of Saint George, and a weyschuit (a small open boat) moves almost alongside it. To the left, broadside on, is a Dutch merchant ship with a smalschip, or smallship, nosing in beside it. In the distance are various craft of different sizes, capacity and purpose, all of which van de Velde has portrayed with the vigour and attention to detail his clients expected.

The sea is flat and calm. The boats are still, with almost no activity on board, and flags droop. But the low horizon allows for a wide sky with puffy clouds serenely drifting along, and gives space for the intricate geometry of masts, rigging and curved sails that bring life and vitality to the painting.

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