It is almost 50 years ago that I decided to become an art dealer, and with my fascination since childhood for Dutch maritime history it was almost inevitable that I chose to specialise in seascapes from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. I didn’t realise at the time that I would be the only dealer in the world to do so. I still am.
Little had been published at the time, nor had much research been done, so sometimes it was an almost end- less search to track down the correct attributions. The marine was still uncharted territory. And even today there are plenty of seascapes appearing at auction at home and abroad with attributions that are wide of the mark.
In those more almost 50 years I have built up a massive archive. I have photographed all the paintings that have passed through my hands, first in black-and-white photographs and large transparencies, and digitally since the mid-1990s.
We have also recorded all auction results, together with illustrations. This archive is regularly consulted by art historians for their publications. So I can proudly say that the marine is now firmly on the chart. Many pieces of the puzzle have been filled in, but not all of them, of course. The first quarter of the seventeenth century still needs to be researched further. I have helped in my own way by correcting the many incorrect attributions.
In all those long years I have not only sold many paintings, drawings, prints and nautical charts to muse- ums in the Netherlands and abroad, but to private collectors as well, who have become friends as well as clients, and for that I am grateful.
A lot has changed in all that time. Good paintings have become scarce, and the search for fascinating and historic works costs a great deal of time and effort. But the few times you find a really first-rate work makes it all worthwhile. And that is what has now happened again with a superb work by the greatest marine painter of the second half of the seventeenth century, Willem van de Velde the Younger. It was very probably commissioned by the heirs of Vice-Admiral Sir John Harman (c. 1625- 11October 1673) to celebrate his victory in the third Anglo-Dutch war on his flagship the London.
This painting The Battle of Texel (Kijkduin) (11/21) on the 21st of August 1673 with the English ViceAdmiral Sir John Harman on the London and Vice-Admiral Johan de Liefde on the Vrijheid, can be regarded as an important work of Van de Velde’s English period and can be dated around 1675. The painting is clearly made from an English perspective in which the Dutch Vice-Admiral Johan de Liefde would loose his flagship the Vrijheid and his life.
The harmonious composition, refined use of colour and minutely detailed rendering of the drama, action, rigging and figures make it a feast for the eye.
I have endeavoured to keep the text as accessible as possible, not only for museum curators at home and abroad but also for the private collector.
I would like to express my thanks to Dr. Remmelt Daalder, former curator at the Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam, restorator Hans van Dam, Ab Hoving, formerly chief curator of ship models in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and last but not least my daughter Saskia, who decided after completing her art history studies that she would like nothing better than to assist me in my gallery. So the torch is being passed on.
Rob Kattenburg in his library, holding a copy of
Geerardt Brandt, Het leven en bedryf van den heere
Michiel de Ruiter, Amsterdam 1687.
Rob Kattenburg Collection
Rarely has an artistic family been as blessed with talent as the Van de Veldes. The father was a virtuoso ship draughts- man, and his two sons, his namesake Willem and Adriaen, were brilliant painters, each in his own genre: Willem as a
marine artist and Adriaen as a master of bucolic landscapes.
Before the two Willems moved to England in 1672- 1673 (Adriaen had died at the beginning of 1672) it was mainly the father who received one major commission after another. The younger Willem seems to have spent most of his time in the studio making small oil paintings, not for specific clients but for people who came in off the street in search of an attractive ‘sea piece’ to hang on the wall. That is the conclusion drawn from the small size of most of his pictures prior to 1672, rarely more than half a square metre. He only started making large paintings on a regular basis after going to live in England, and there he went to the other extreme with canvases up to 3 metres wide, such as his huge painting of the Gouden Leeuw at the Battle of the Texel in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and the famous work in the Amsterdam Museum, The ‘Gouden Leeuw’ on the IJ by Amsterdam of 1686, which he painted while on a visit to the city.1
An artist would only make pictures that big if he was specifically asked to do so. Even the most successful painters would not have set up such a large canvas on their easels unless they knew beforehand that they had a customer for it.
Van de Velde’s Dutch fleet assembling before the Four Days’ Battle of 11-14 June 1666, with the ‘Liefde’ and the ‘Gouden Leeuwen’ in the foreground, is 202.5 cm wide, making it one of his ten largest pictures, or at least of the ones that have survived. Only three of those ten date from his Dutch period,2 including the famous ship portrait in the Wallace Collection in London, which also features the Liefde. 3
Given its size, The Battle of Texel (Kijkduin) (11/21) on the 21st of August 1673 with the English Vice-Admiral Sir John Harman on the London and Vice-Admiral Johan de Liefde on the Vrijheid, must have been made on the express instructions of the patron. The heirs of vice - Admiral Sir John Harman were probably the ones who commissioned the painting to commemorate his one true victory over ViceAdmiral Johan de Liefde in the Third AngloDutch wars. That the patron chose to have the
work painted by Willem van de Velde the Younger is perfectly understandable, since the Van de Veldes moved to England in 1672 by invitation to King Charles II.
As early as 1652 an intermediary was praising the young artist, just 18 at the time, as ‘Master Van de Velde’s son, a very good painter [...] in oils of sea pieces and battles’.5 Nothing came of that particular venture, but there is one
other documented commission that certainly was executed. It was for two paintings of incidents in the Four Days’ Battle that Willem the Younger made for the Amsterdam Admiralty, as recorded in its resolutions for 30 September 1666: ‘to come to an agreement with Willem van de Velde to make two paintings of the two glorious battles against England’. Both of them are now in the Rijksmuseum and must have been completed at the end of the 1660s, in roughly the same period as the Dutch fleet assembling before the Four Days’ Battle of 11-14 June 1666, with the ‘Liefde’ and the ‘Gouden Leeuwen’ in the foreground
The painting of the Liefde and the Gouden Leeuwen marks a new stage in Van de Velde’s development. Not only did he start working on a larger scale around 1670, but his style was also evolving. He had previously excelled in sublime, calm seas and coastal waters, but now the elements are playing a far more tempestuous role. This is an unusual kind of scene for Van de Velde’s Dutch period. In England he quite often depicted ships battling the elements like this.
The Van de Veldes moved to England in the year 1672. In Dutch history, the year 1672 has from that time, to present been known as “Het Rampjaar” (The Disaster Year). So many catastrophes and calamities befell the Dutch Republic in that year, which to the Dutch of that day and later, the whole year merited the description “Disaster.” It almost meant the end of the Republic.
The Van de Veldes moved to England because of the collapse of the art market in the Republic and because Ludolf Backhuysen (1630- 1708) made his best works in this period and he was a an distinguished competitor with many more
important relations in Amsterdam. The foregoing can be deduced from letters of Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638).
Leiden 1633 – Westminster 1707
Foreword by rob Kattenburg 3
Intoduction by Remmelt Daalder 4
Biography Willem van de Velde the Younger 8
The painting of the Battle of Texel (Kijkduin) 11/21 August 1673 11
The Third Anglo-War 18
The Battle of Texel 29
Ships involved 32
The relationship between the painting and other depictions of the Battle of Texel 39
The commanders of the Battle of Texel 11/21 August 1673 45
Johan de Liefde 45
Sir John Harman 51
Vice admiral Cornelis Evertsen the Younger 55
Adriaen Banckert, Admiral of Zeeland 57
Aert Jansse van Nes 61
Cornelis Tromp 65
Onno Doedens Star 69
Michiel de Ruyter 72
Prince Rupert of the Rhine 75
Le Comte Jean II d'Estrées 90