A seascape showing fishing boats to the left and right. This scene, bathed in golden light, is dominated by a rarefied, cloud-filled sky which takes up approximately three quarters of the picture surface and is ostensibly the main subject of the work. While thick grey clouds are predominant in the upper corners of the composition, bright white clouds threaten to burst forth in the centre of the sky. In contrast, the sea is painted in a series of thin brown stripes and peaks. In the foreground, to the right, a small rowing boat or shallop, holding four figures, leads the eye towards the flat horizon. One of the figures rows the boat while another stands upright in order to tend fishing nets. On the left a coastal craft, probably a smalschip, flies a Dutch flag and edges towards the middle of the composition. It is shown in distant port-quarter view, with its leeboard visible and several men standing on the deck. On either side of this boat, other vessels are depicted as silhouettes in the distance. The vessel, which is silhouetted to the right of the smalschip, lies at anchor broadside. Two further smalschips appear on the far right, one of which is starkly illuminated by the break in the clouds. This vessel is rigged with square foresail and mainsail and flies the Dutch flag.
This painting, with its dramatically differentiated sky, owes much to the influences of Mulier’s contemporaries such as Jan van Goyen and Salomon van Ruysdael. Also it marks a departure from his earlier paintings in which storms, tempests and breaking waves were predominant and the influence of Jan Porcellis was discernible. Like those of Porcellis, Mulier’s early works were characterized by low horizons and forcibly irregular waves. While it has been impossible to determine categorically who may have been Mulier’s master, it is not surprising to learn that Porcellis lived and worked in Mulier’s native Haarlem from 1622 to 1624, during Mulier’s formative years.
Where to see this painting?
National Maritime Museum
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