CAPPELLE, Jan van de
(b. 1624, Amsterdam, d. 1679, Amsterdam)

Dutch Yacht Firing a Salvo

1650
Oil on wood, 85,5 x 114,5 cm
National Gallery, London

Jan van de Cappelle is today considered to be one of the greatest of Dutch marine painters. According to a contemporary he was self-taught but he clearly took as his models Simon de Vlieger and Jan Porcellis, works by both of whom were in his own large collection of paintings and drawings. Porcellis had been the first marine painter to break with the dominant Mannerist style of Hendrick Vroom, in whose paintings elaborately described two-dimensional ships were tossed on the top of bright green waves. Porcellis adopted a very restricted grey, black and white palette to paint realistic scenes of storms at sea, a style which De Vlieger developed in the direction of greater naturalism by extending the range of the palette and the ambition of the compositions.

Van de Cappelle further extended the possibilities of this naturalistic style. He employs a low horizon, as Ruisdael and Koninck did in their landscapes, and consequently the sky assumes almost as great a significance as the scene beneath it. Although carefully composed, van de Cappelle's paintings seem to give the impression of a scene glimpsed suddenly by cutting off parts of ships on one or both sides of the composition - as here on the left. In this painting of 1650 the focus of the scene is the States' yacht in the centre with the Dutch flag and the coat of arms on her stern: she is firing a salute and a trumpeter on board is sounding. In the right foreground is a row-barge also flying the Dutch flag and with a distinguished man in the stern with the Dutch colours in his hat. It is this visitor who has presumably just left the yacht. Van de Cappelle was especially skilful at representing the cluster of masts and sails, and the reflections of the ships in the unruffled surface of the water.

This painting depicts a real event, probably the arrival of Friderick Henry and William II of Orania.

Van de Cappelle, who lived and worked in Amsterdam, produced relatively few paintings. His family owned a dye-works, from which he derived his considerable wealth, and he amassed a fascinating collection of works by other artists.