Fishing Boats on a Calm Sea

Artist or maker:
Velde the Younger, Willem van de (b.1633, d.1707)
previously attributed to Hendrik J Dubbels (Dutch, b.1621, d.1707)
c 1655
dated stylistically
Place of production:
oil on canvas
Type of object:
Accession number:


Willem van de Velde's carefully thought out composition seems naturalistic, although there is a planned harmony and monumentality to the way the boats have been arranged. The flags reflect the rivalry of Dutch and English vessels in the North Sea in the 17th century. In the late 19th century, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild collaborated with other family members to acquire it from an important Dutch collection.

The ensigns on the ships indicate that the scene shows an exchange between Dutch and English vessels. The boats on the left are connected with fishing indicated by the baskets in the small row boats. The larger boats on the right are more likely to be merchant vessels. Sea trade helped to make these two nations so important in the 17th and 18th centuries and control of the waters was a source of conflict between them.

Van de Velde trained with Simon de Vlieger around 1650, who also depicted the theme of calm seas, particularly concentrating on weather effects and light. Working in Holland, first in his father's studio and then on his own in the 1640s to 1660s, van de Velde specialised in depictions of calms. After he moved to London in 1672, he rarely depicted this subject. Storms and shipwrecks were more popular with his English clientele.

This painting was once owned by the important Dutch family of collectors, the van Winters. Several of the Dutch paintings now at Waddesdon originally came from this collection, although they passed through different families on the way. This painting entered the van Winter family through marriage. It was owned by Anna Louisa van der Poorten who was the second wife of Pieter van Winter. It was the most important painting in her collection. It passed to Pieter's daughter Anneweis who married into the van Loon family. At her death, her heirs sold her paintings. There are several copies of the painting recorded, including a possible copy by Abraham Storck made for Pieter van Winter (see Ruud Priem; Catalogue of Old Master Paintings Acquired by Lucretia Johanna van Winter, 1809-22; Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art; 25; 1997; 197-230, p. 222 no.146).

This was one of a number of paintings that five members of the Rothschild family - Alphonse (1827-1905), Gustave (1829-1911), Edmond (1845-1934), Lionel (1808-1879) and Ferdinand (1839-1898) - bought from the Van Loon collection in 1877. This shows how the family worked together to acquire first-class paintings for their collections.

Phillippa Plock, 2011

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
686 x 1002
670 x 975 - sight
Signature & date:
signed, lower left, on upper left bar of triangular mooring structure: W.V.V


Probably owned by Christiaen van Orsoy Christiaensz (b.1748, d.1777); probably inherited by his widow Anna Louisa van der Poorten (b.1752, d.1800) who owned the painting in 1780 when it was valued at 1,400 Dfl; acquired through marriage to Anna Louisa by Pieter van Winter (b.1745, d.1807); by descent to his daughter Annewies van Loon née Winter (b.1793, d.1877); acquired through marriage to Anneweis by Willem van Loon (b.1794, d.1847); inherited by Annewies van Loon (b.1793, d.1877); sold from the estate of Anneweis van Loon to Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898) in 1877, listed as lot no. 2, 82 as 'Mer calme', valued at 100,000 FF in manuscript relating to sale (Rothschild London Archive RAL 000/848); inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1957.
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957



John Smith; A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters; 9 vols; London; Smith and Son; 1829-1842; vol. 4, no. 184
Cornelis Hofstede de Groot; A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Vols 5-8 [1907-1927]; Bishops Stortford; Chadwick Healey; 1976; vol. 7, p. 79, no. 284
Christopher White, Dutch and Flemish Paintings at Waddesdon Manor, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 54, August 1959, 67-74; p. 74
Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; pp. 172-173, cat. no. 73
Ulrike Middendorf; Hendrik Jacobsz. Dubbels, 1621-1707: Gemälde und Zeichnungen mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog; Freren; 12458; 1989; p. 118, no. 47, repr. 119
M S Robinson; Van de Velde: A catalogue of the paintings of the Elder and the Younger Willem van de Velde.; 2 vols; London; National Maritime Museum Trustees; 1990; pp. 379-380, no. 596, no. 1, illus; rejects attrib. to Dubbels, lists as 'A Kaag and a Waterschip lying by a Dolphin with a Ship at Anchor' and dates c. 1655
Ruud Priem, The "Most Excellent Collection" of Lucretia Johanna van Winter: The Years 1809-22, with a Catalogue of the Works Purchased, Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, 25, 1997, 103-196; pp. 113, 117, fig. 12

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