A Yacht Firing a Cannon Shot

Attributed to:
Velde the Younger, Willem van de (b.1633, d.1707)
sea and sky attributed to Ludolf Bakhuizen (Dutch, b.1630, d.1708)
c 1672
dated stylistically
Place of production:
London, England, United Kingdom
oil on canvas
Type of object:
Accession number:


A grand ship displaying the arms of the province of Holland fires a cannon surrounded by other ships displaying the tricolour of the Dutch Republic. Rather than depicting an act of agression, the cannon shot may be a show of force and strength. The swelling sea and glowering sky add to the drama of the scene, giving this small painting a sense of dynamism and power.

The painting is probably by Willem van de Velde, although there are signs it could be a studio collaboration. Willem trained with his father. Both artists specialised in marine painting. Before coming to London around 1672, Willem specialised in paintings of calm seas with fishing boats and warships. In England, he produced more paintings of rough seas and naval engagements, which his English clientele preferred. Charles II gave him and his father a yearly pension to paint marine works. This painting has a Dutch provenance. His Dutch patrons continued to buy Willem's works after he went to London.

Holland was the most influential and powerful region of the Netherlands. Many people outside the country associated it with the whole of the region - hence the modern English use of the term Holland for the whole of the Netherlands. With the dramatic cannon shot, the artist may have been commenting on how this region led the rest of the Dutch republic, represented by the other vessels in the painting. Alternatively, the painting may have been restored incorrectly in the past. It could have shown the visit of the Dutch States-General to the fleet which occurred in May 1672. There is a painting with this subject in the National Maritime Museum, with a very similar ship (inv. no. 60-16). It has been suggested the painting shows a skirmish between the Dutch and English fleets. However, there do not seem to be any English ships involved.

The painting was in the sale of the collection of the French Comte de Merles in the 18th century. There were 110 paintings in the sale, including 63 Dutch and Flemish works. A previous owner of the painting, Jeremiah Harman, was an associate of Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836), attesting to how wider social networks were important for the Rothschild family in aquiring paintings.

Phillippa Plock, 2011

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
498 x 513 - sight
Signature & date:
signed, lower centre on plank: W. V. V


In Holland before 1783, when imported to France; acquired by Charles Louis Comte de Merles de Beauchamp (b.1723, d.1793) in 1783; bought by Rousseau at the Comte de Merle sale, Paris, 1 March 1784, lot no. 73, 'une vue de mer par un temps frais', for 3710 FF; acquired by Jeremiah Harman (b.1763, d.1844) before 1835; bought possibly by Mawson at Jeremiah Harman sale, Christie's London, 18 May 1844, lot no. 110, for Baron James de Rothschild (b.1792, d.1868) for 1380 guineas (£1449); by descent to his son Baron Edmond de Rothschild (b.1845, d.1934); by descent to his son James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); accepted by The Treasury Solicitor in lieu of taxes on the Estate of Mr James de Rothschild in 1965; given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1990.
Exhibition history:
British Institution, London, 1815, no. 77 as 'Vandervelde. A Gale with a Yacht firing a Salute' lent by Harman (Jeremiah), called 'A Marble Sea and a Marble Sky' in accompanying catalogue
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1990



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. 6, p. 326, no. 21, no. 136; measuring 1 ft 8 inches x 1ft 8.5 inches (508 x 521 mm), in collection of Jeremiah Harman
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, no. 466, no. 256 (Bakhuizen); as 'A Fine Yacht in a Strong Breeze' 20 x 20.5 inches
Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; pp.174-175, cat. no. 74
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. 784-785, no. 595, ill.; as 'A States Yacht in a Moderate Quarterly Breeze', dated c. 1672
Jolynn Edwards; Alexandre-Joseph Paillet: expert et marchand de tableaux à la fin du XVIII siècle; Paris; Arthena; 1996; p. 247, no. 73; as 'une vue de mer par un temps frais'

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