(1652 – Horn – 1719)

The newly completed warship the ‘Protector’ in front of the harbor of Hoorn

Oil on canvas, 152 x 225 cm

Dated: 1689


  1. Moll the Elder, Frederik Muller Auction, Amsterdam December 15, 1908, Lot 3 (as Ludolf Backhuysen).


  1. Hofstede de Groot, A catalog raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch painters of the seventeenth century , Based on the Work of John Smit, Volume VII, p. 246, no. 138 London 1923.

RC Anderson, ‘Dutch Three-Deckers’, in: Mariners Mirror , 1929, Volume V, pp. 11-12.

dr. Gerlinde de Beer, Ludolf Backhuysen, Sein Leben und Werk , Zwolle 2002, p. 206, fig. 268.


Jan Claesz Rietschoof showed his talent for drawing and painting at an early age. The painter’s biographer, Houbraken, reports that at the age of fourteen the artist was apprenticed to Abraham Liedst, a local portrait painter, and later to the famous seascape painter Ludolf Backhuysen in Amsterdam. In this masterly and monumental seascape, Rietschoof has equaled – and perhaps surpassed – his teacher. Houbraken also writes that Rietschoof maintained his teacher’s approach and that Rietschoof’s masterpieces were regularly attributed to Ludolf Backhuysen. Rietschoof did not sign his work or, if he did, with the easily removable monogram JRC . In the past, this led to many of his paintings being attributed to his teacher Backhuysen or to colleagues or students who imitated his style. Only in recent decades has the number of works attributed to Rietschoof on stylistic grounds increased and this master emerged from the shadow of his sometimes better fellow artists. Rietschoof was a successful painter until very late in his life and in 1697 belonged to the group of approximately two hundred ‘distinguished’ and wealthiest inhabitants of Hoorn.

The literature contradicts the date (1689) given to this painting, stating that the Guardian was launched in 1690 by the Admiralty Northern Quarter Council. The ship was built in Enkhuizen, but is most likely not finished there. In November 1689 it was reported from the Noorderkwartier (this College of Admiralty had its seat alternately in Hoorn and in Enkhuizen) that the hulls of the three newly built ships had been completed and “which in itself did not deficient further than just the Zan?, Wood, Zeyl and Train? However, it was also reported that there was no money left to

to complete the ships that ” equip the Admiralty in the Northern Quarter for its contingent” . This probably referred to the most important ship, the Guardian . Rietschoof will have been able to observe the ship in Enkhuizen up to and including the final construction phase in the yard and see it sail past the harbor of Hoorn when it was towed to Amsterdam. This seascape from 1689 shows the ship in all its glory – whether or not commissioned – off the port of Hoorn.

The Guardian was 170 feet long (Amsterdam foot = 28.31 cm), 43 feet wide with a 16 foot deep hull and it carried 90 guns. The large three-deckers were generally first-class ships, which were called Grootships or Negentigers for the number of guns they could carry. Each of the five Admiralty Councils was required to maintain and equip a number of these 170-foot nineties in case war broke out. The Guardian would become the third and last of the nineties of the Noorderkwartier. West Friesland built in 1683 in Hoorn – a ship that was also painted by Rietschoof – and the Castle of Medemblik from 1688 were already part of the fleet.

The Protector belonging to the Noorderkwartier is sometimes confused with the Protector of the Council of Admiralty De Maze (Rotterdam). The latter was 174 feet long and carried 90 to 100 guns. This ship was put into service very soon after its completion in 1691 and remained so until 1715.

For example, it was part of the combined Anglo-Dutch fleet that engaged the French in May 1692 off the coast of La Hogue, one of the episodes of the Nine Years’ War (also known as the War of the Great Alliance, the War of the League of Augsburg or the War of the Palatine Succession – 1688-1697). At that time, the Guardian of the Noorderkwartier was located on the Zuiderzee (see copy of archive document 1). At the request of the skipper Claes Gerritsz van Uitdam, two of his colleagues explained how in November 1692 they, together with ten other waterships, had been ordered to ‘tow the warships of the country into the harbor of this City’ (Hoorn). On the same day all other ships were transferred. After the Battle of La Hogue in 1692, where the Protector of the Northern Quarter had failed to take any laurels, the threat from the French at sea still had not disappeared. At the beginning of 1693 the so-called ‘ Groote Vloot’ sailed under the command of Admiral Philips van Almonde. The fleet gathered in Saint Helena Bay from where they could escort the Dutch and English merchant ships on their way to the East and the Mediterranean. This was probably the only time the two ships of Noorderkwartier and De Maze, both named Protector , were found in the same fleet. On this occasion, the Noorderkwartier ship carried 90 guns: twelve 36-pounders, eighteen 24-pounders, thirty 18-pounders,

twenty-four 6-pounders and six 4-pounders. In fact there was no shooting: the superiority of the Great Fleet was such that the French avoided any form of confrontation. The following spring another large fleet set out, but the Guardian of the Northern Quarter was no longer part of it.


It was not until 1695 that the Guardian was called back into service. The squadron of which the ship was part had to patrol the North Sea, off the coast of Flanders, or where possible lie ‘armed in the coves’ to deter the French privateers. Two contemporary legal documents from Hoorn show that the Guardian sailed near Camperduin on 19 October 1695 (see copy of archive document 2). According to statements made by three officers at the request of their commander (Captain) Cornelis Graauw of the ship Juffrouw Anna , the Protector withdrew from a confrontation with five enemy ships. Captains Graauw and Cleijn sailed together to the Protector of Commander de Wit, perhaps to discuss his questionable action. At nightfall the three ships separated and ‘Commander De Wit set course for the London River’.

It is not known whether there are consequences attached to De Wit’s behaviour. A year later (1696) he was no longer captain of the Guardian . That same year, the Guardian again carried the usual 90 guns and a crew of 475 men.


After 1700, the reports about the activities of the Protector are less clear, because in the documents no distinction is made between the Protector of the Noorderkwartier and De Maze’s ship of the same name. In the years 1702, 1703, 1705 and 1707, a ship named Protector was part of a fleet that gathered in Saint Helena Bay to escort the VOC fleet and escort the merchant ships bound for St. Uves of Lisbon and the Mediterranean. In the first decades of the 18th century, the nineties gradually lost their military significance. After the end of the Nine Years’ War (1688-1697) and the subsequent War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713), they were no longer built. After 1713 the only ships at sea were highly manoeuvrable ships with between 40 and 60 guns and a crew of 200 to 250 men to serve as escorts for the VOC and merchant navy. In the period between 1717 and 1720, the Admiralty Councils De Maze, Zeeland and the Noorderkwartier lacked the money to put ships into service at all. The Guardian – or rather, the hull – was sold on August 18, 1721 to a shipbreaker in Hoorn.


Archives Service West Frisian Municipalities, Hoorn, Not. Arch. 2246 (May 21, 1694).

Archives Service West Frisian Municipalities, Hoorn, Not. Arch. 2213 (19th and 23rd November 1695).


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