There is no other pendant (calm and tempest) presently known on this grand format of H.C. Vroom, the ‘father’ of the Dutch Marine painters, the first ship portraitist and the most important marine painter of the first quarter of the seventeenth century.
The calm represents the Dutch fleet engaged in battle with either the Spanish or the Barbary pirates under a tall blue sky. Vroom creates a stylistic balance with realistic detail which can be observed, for example, in the careful handling of the reflections in the water and the detailed painting of the vessels, that marks out his mature works and which has, at least in part, been responsible for his reputation as the first Dutch seascape artist. He is equally credited with the innovation of the long horizontal view which is also demonstrated in this particular calm.
One of the features that make Vroom such a good painter is his masterful eye for detail in the rendering of the ships. It demonstrates his thorough knowledge of the shipbuilding of his time and howing careful attention to naval detail and rigging.
The tempest is a large genre piece with two sea monsters on the foreground. The colour of the dark waves seems to be the product of light on a windy day at sea. The dangers of the passage are represented by the monster. As such the subject matter appears to repeat the moralist belief, perpetuated in contemporary emblem literature, of the occasional necessity to sacrifice all one’s riches in order to save one’s life. The inclusion of the monsters, points to the implicit allegory of the ship as a vessel bearing mankind and the human soul across the perilous seas of life. The rendering of the waves appears to be based on the experience travelled aboard ship.
The artist has shown members of the crew in the masts to indicate that they are in control and will steer the ship to safety but must exercise vigilance, care and watchfulness. There is an emphasis on human perseverance in the face of great peril. On the right side and background, the two ships in the distance on the left are pitching and tossing in the waves at the mercy of the elements.
Pendants were often intended for a particular domestic setting and its highly likely that these two paintings were commissioned for the same client.
Discover more about Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom his Biography.