VELDE, Willem van de, the Elder
(b. 1611, Leiden, d. 1693, London)

The Battle of Livorno

c. 1654
Pen and ink on white prepared ground, 114 x 160 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Willem van de Velde the Elder specialised in pen paintings - scenes drawn with the pen on a support prepared with a white ground. In his early years he drew naval battles and ship portraits with the pen on vellum. When he began to find that support too cramped he developed a similar technique for canvas and panel, producing works which most closely resemble paintings in black and white, with the difference that they were done not with a brush but with the pen alone. He was particularly sought after by senior naval officers keen to have a memento of a victory at sea.

This painting was probably ordered by Cornelis Tromp who played a key role in the Battle of Livorno. The naval battle took place on 14 March 1653, during the First Anglo-Dutch War, near Leghorn (Livorno), Italy. It was a victory of a Dutch fleet under Commodore Johan van Galen over an English squadron under Captain Henry Appleton.

The painting is in a frame of ebony veneer with gilt appliqués.