A number of vessels are shown moving briskly through the waves in a strong breeze. The boat on the left is probably a kaag, designed for use on inland waterways, with the leeboard visible. It flies the Dutch flag and one group of figures sits in the stern and another in the bow, including a figure dressed in red. Kaags were often used as ferries in the Zuider Zee, conveying cargo and people to and from seagoing ships. In the central distance a strip of land is shown, with buildings and a church on the skyline, while on the far left another small craft sails on the same course as the kaag. To the right a fishing boat with a leeboard visible sails towards the land, flying a flag at the stern. There are other craft in the distance, indicating considerable activity on the waterway.
Porcellis was a Flemish artist, regarded as the greatest marine painter of his day. Initially taught by Vroom, he was a pioneer of the Dutch realist school and used an innovative choice of colours. This replaced the colourful Flemish palette with a subdued, almost monochromatic range reportedly inspired by the grey skies of Holland. The artist moved to Antwerp and became Master of the Painters' Guild in 1617. From here he moved to Amsterdam and then to Haarlem, finally settling near Leiden. The painting is signed 'IP' on the central stripe of the tricolour flag of the nearest ship.
Where to see this painting?
National Maritime Museum
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