Since his election as a master in the Order of Saint John, 15 June 1652, John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen has used the order’s insignia in the decoration of his palaces – among which the The Hague Mauritshuis – his gardens and his staff. In our drawing the Maltese Cross is thrice visible: on the lee-board, on the banner and under the coat of arms on the upper stern. The Ottonic- Nassauic coat of arms is furthermore extended with the blue band of the Order of the Elephant, confered upon the stadholder by the Danish King Charles XI. The five-leaved crown is part of the heraldry since 1664, when the counts of Nassau-Siegen were allowed to carry the title of prince.
The function of yachts of this type is clearly stated by Abraham de Wicquefort (1660): ‘big yachts, that serve persons of quality on the rivers, as well as in the land, to pass from one province to another, in case of necessity or for pleasure.’ The purchase value of circa 7000 guilders equalled the prince’s annual income.
While Van de Velde the Younger chose to draw the vessel’s stern, his father depicted the front of the ship (Museum Boijmans van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. no. MB1866 T425). A copy after The Younger’s drawing by Jacobus Storck survives (Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam, inv. no. S.1859). John Maurice’s transport vessel would later appear in paintings by Ludolf Backhuysen, Jacobus Storck and Adam Silo.
Cf, Crone, G.C.E. De jachten der Oranjes. Historisch en scheepstechnisch overzicht van de jachten der stadhouders en vorsten van het huis van Oranje-Nassau vanaf het einde der 16de eeuw. Amsterdam: N.V. Swets, Zeitlinger boekhandel en uitgevers, 1937.; Robinson, M.S. Van de Velde drawings. A Catalogue of Drawings in the National Maritime Museum made by the Elder and the Younger Willem van de Velde, 2 vols., Cambridge 1958/ 1974. Vol. 1, p. 261, plate 11, nr. 32 A.