Amsterdam ca.1590 – Haarlem 1637 or later

THE BLOCKADE OF THE PRIVATE NEST ON DUNKIRK with the ‘Vlieghende Groene Draeck’

Signed with monogram CVBH on the flag of the mizzen.

Oil on panel, 77 x 121 cm.


The nobleman Philips van Dorp (1587-1652).

Probably Cornelis van Teylingen (1590-1658) collection.

The collection of Lars Fredrik Lovén (1844-1939) and Louise Lovén, née Von Rosen (1853-1937), Linköping. Then by inheritance to the previous owner. Collection Rob Kattenburg.

Dendrochronological research by Prof. dr. P. Klein shows that the painting can be dated to or after 1617.



Greenwich, National Maritime Museum; London, National Gallery of Art; Washington, The National Gallery of Art; Barnard Castle, County Durham, The Bowes Museum; Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum; Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum; Amsterdam, Maritime Museum; Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum.


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One of the highlights of Dutch marine painting from the first quarter of the seventeenth century



To our knowledge, this painting of the Dunkirk Blockade, which can be dated to around 1630, is the earliest depiction of the subject. To understand the scene it is important to recognize the city in the background. A Dutch squadron of five warships on the roadstead of Dunkirk indicates that it is a blockade fleet. Cornelis Isaacsz Verbeeck’s well-known oeuvre consists of about 30 small marines on copper or panel, but it has recently been expanded with the discovery of this large seascape, which has been in a Swedish private collection for generations.

It is a detailed and colorful panel, which is amazingly well preserved. Dendrochronological research has shown that

the panel would have been ready for use from 1617. The painting is also a rare example of a student of Hendrik Vroom who equals his teacher before going his own way in the last years of his life.

This painting depicts the blockade of the Dunkirk hijacker’s nest. Four Dutch warships at anchor are depicted in the North Sea, with Dunkirk Harbor and Fort Mardyck in the background

right. The fifth warship is depicted on the right foreground with the south wind in its sails. Verbeeck worked very meticulously and even took the wind direction and tide into account. The ship in the left foreground is anchored with the bow to the wind.

The ships all conform to the image we have of ships that must have sailed between 1620 and 1630: built high with open galleries, broad and round in shape and with an archaic rig, characterized by the many spurs and crow’s feet of purlins, buoy lines and traps.

This is important for the understanding of the work, because in 1621 the Twelve Years’ Truce between Spain and the Netherlands came to an end, according to which the Dutch Republic had been recognized as a sovereign nation since 1609. It is known that many warships were withdrawn from service after the ceasefire due to the reduced tension between the two countries. Here we have no less than five capital warships, indicating that the admiralties of the Dutch Republic again had a large number of ships at their disposal. After 1621 an extensive shipbuilding program was launched to make up for the shortages that had arisen.

The nobleman Philips van Dorp most likely ordered the panel, with the flagship, the ‘Vlieghende Groene Draeck’, from the Haarlem master, out of pride about the reconstituted fleet and the successful blockade of the Dunkirk privateers.


CORNELIS ISAACSZ VERBEECK (1590-1637 or later)

Cornelis Isaacsz Verbeeck was born in Amsterdam about 1590 and was registered as a master in the Haarlem Guild of Saint Luke in 1610. He is known to have lived there in April 1609, when at the age of 18 he testified at the Kruis or Janspoort outside the city walls about a fight in an inn. He was nicknamed ‘Smitge’, derived from the old Dutch throwing because of his habit of getting involved in fights. The infamous painter, Rosicrucian and erotomaniac Johannes Torrentius (Verbeek) was his cousin. Cornelis also gained a dubious reputation for his frequent conflicts with the judiciary during his youth. His name appears regularly in the Haarlem archives, and despite his many clashes with the authorities, he was successful as a painter.

He specialized in small-scale depictions of naval battles, ships bobbing off rocky coasts and beach views, and a few large-scale paintings of historical events. Verbeeck followed his own nature by having a predilection for depicting ships in a storm. In addition to such fantastic depictions, he painted some topographically accurate vistas of the kind seen in the current painting.

On December 6, 1609 he married Anna Pieters in Haarlem, also living outside the Kruispoort. The couple had three daughters and two sons, of whom Isaac would follow in his father’s footsteps.

On stylistic grounds it is very likely that the young Verbeeck received his training in the studio of Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom (1566-1640), the founder of Dutch naval painting. The first painter to adopt Vroom’s style, and who probably worked for him for many years, was Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen, born in Haarlem (before 1580-1633).

A handful of marine painters worked in Haarlem, including Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom, Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen, Hans and Pieter Savery and Cornelis Isaacz Verbeeck. Together with Abraham de Verwer in Amsterdam and Adam Willaerts in Utrecht, they belong to the first generation of painters who made an important contribution to the development of marine painting.

Van Wieringen, Vroom and Verbeeck belonged to the early generation of sea specialists in the Northern Netherlands, who specialized in panoramic scenes in which Southern Netherlandish idioms were combined with the naturalistic tendencies from the North.

Although Verbeeck’s name has now been largely forgotten by the general public, his qualities as a marine painter were already recognized during his lifetime: his seascapes fetched some of the highest prizes in the genre. His navies, equipped with beautifully observed ships, were popular with the Haarlem citizenry, and his name appears regularly in Haarlem painting collections. The Haarlem chronicler Samuel Ampzing called Verbeeck in 1628 ‘very fine and just in ships-grinding’.

Verbeek’s oeuvre, which now consists of about 30 works, shows that he mainly painted on panel and in small format. He was clearly influenced by Vroom, especially in his treatment of turbulent seas with white, hair-fine mist and deep wave troughs. Verbeeck kept far from the monumental naval battles and large harbor views with which his teacher Vroom made a name for himself.

In 1630, Vroom was still a popular painter for large naval battles and harbor scenes, but competition had increased. Besides Van Wieringen, others had also entered the market for naval battles painted in his style. Of these, Abraham de Verwer, who may have received his education in Haarlem, stands out the most. Instead of waiting for assignments, he started looking for work himself.

He successfully offered naval battles, which had already been depicted by Vroom and Van Wieringen, to city councils, admiralty colleges, trading companies and even an orphanage.

Surrounded by these masters of monumental marine painting, who also painted on a small scale for enthusiasts and collectors, it will not have been easy for Verbeeck to gain a foothold in the market. His last sign of life dates from November 1637, and he is believed to have died shortly afterwards.


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