High, scudding clouds and a restless sea bring a feeling of freshness to Willem van de Velde’s painting. Two lowered white sails seem to tumble towards the water, and echo the froth on the tops of the waves. The breeze is almost palpable, with spars, masts and vessels all leaning at different angles, adding to the energy of the scene.
The sand dunes of the distant shore are thought to be the island of Texel; the boat on the left certainly appears to be flying the city’s blue and white flag, although a discoloured layer of varnish makes it difficult to be sure of the colours. The warship on the extreme right fires a gun in a salute for an important visitor.
Van de Velde painted this picture for his family studio in Amsterdam. Hendrick Dubbels, whose work is also in the National Gallery’s collection, was an assistant there and may have painted the water in the foreground.
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