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Willem van de Velde, Boats pulling out to a Yacht in a Calm

Key facts
Full title Boats pulling out to a Yacht in a Calm
Artist Willem van de Velde
Artist dates 1633 - 1707
Date made about 1665
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 43 × 50.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG980
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Boats pulling out to a Yacht in a Calm
Willem van de Velde

During the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic was frequently at war, often with England. It’s possible that this is a picture of a fleet preparing for battle.

The sea is quiet, but there is a sense of urgency in the scene. A crowd of small boats pull out from the shore, the men rowing powerfully as if in a hurry. Others thrust out eager hands towards puffs of smoke from the cannon of two vessels firing a salute – the Statenjacht (state yacht) with the tall sails and the Admiral’s flagship to which it travels. The Statenjacht transported members of the government or visiting dignitaries to visit the Admiral before setting sail, and flies the ensign of the States General. Beyond, more warships gather, appearing little more than shadows on the horizon but adding to the impression of a busy seaway even in a calm.

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