Origin: France, private collection
The calm sea was loaned to the National Archives, The Hague for the VOC exhibition, (24.02.2017 -24.06.2018) The storm was loaned to the Singer Museum for the exhibition ‘Weather and Wind. Avercamp to Willink (03.09.2019 -05.01.2020) and the Royal Library of Belgium, Brussels, for the exhibition ‘Breughel in black and white’ (14.10.2019 -16.02.2020).
Both signed and dated: VROOM 1629
The artist, Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom, was born in Haarlem in 1562 or 1563. Initially he earned a living as a painter of Delft pottery. He then traveled extensively through Spain, Italy, France and Poland. In Italy he became acquainted with the painter Paulus Bril and was given work by Cardinal Ferdinand de’ Medici. On his eventual return to Haarlem, he developed his career as a marine painter. In the 1590s he was commissioned to design a series of ten tapestries for the English Lord Admiral, Lord Howard of Effingham (Earl of Nottingham from 1596), commemorating his victory over the Spanish Armada. These tapestries hung in the House of Lords in Westminster from 1650 and were destroyed in the fire of 1834. Fortunately they are recorded in engravings, made by John Pine, in 1739.
Vroom was a pioneer of maritime painting as the Netherlands grew into a leading maritime power. He gained international fame for his modern style of painting in which the ships and rigging are extremely accurately depicted. Vroom died in Haarlem in 1640. He is generally regarded as the first ‘Dutch’ marine painter.
In the foreground are two sea monsters in the dark green waves. The dangers of the crossing are imagined by the monster. As such, the subject seems to reiterate the moralistic belief espoused in contemporary emblem literature that one must occasionally sacrifice all one’s riches in order to save one’s life. The presence of the monster points to the implicit allegory of the ship that carries humanity and the human soul across the perilous seas of life.
There are also poets like William Shakespeare who make frequent and use of references to the sea and things related to it. The following, from Ariel’s Song in Act I, Scene ii of The Tempest , is perceived as “wonderfully evocative”, indicating a “profound transformation”:
Full fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.