Willem van de Velde, the Elder

A Sea-piece with a Dutch Merchant Ship and a Swedish Flute (1650)

About this artwork

Van de Velde perfected this type of ‘pen-painting’, a painting in black and white that resembles a pen and ink drawing, which suited his eye for the details of ships and his stylised treatment of the sea. He followed the stylised conventions of earlier engravings in his swirling waves, but displayed an in-depth knowledge of ships and their construction. The large merchant ship in the centre flies the Dutch flag from its main mast. On the right is a small war vessel known as a fluit or flute, which flies the Swedish flag. The distant port may be West Terschelling.

Willem van de Velde, the Elder

Willem van de Velde, the Elder

Van de Velde, the son of a sea captain, specialised in pictures of ships and sea views. The popularity of Dutch marine painting reflected the importance of the sea for the nation's economy. Van de Velde and his son Willem van de Velde II, collaborated fruitfully, spending time at sea with the Dutch and later the British fleets. The father’s detailed drawings served as models for his son's paintings. Originally based in Leiden and Amsterdam, they moved to Britain in 1672 to work for King Charles II, and were regarded as the finest marine artists in Europe.