CAPPELLE, Jan van de
(b. 1626, Amsterdam, d. 1679, Amsterdam)

The State Barge Saluted by the Home Fleet

Oil on panel, 64 x 93 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Cappelle belongs to the generation of Ruisdael and Cuyp. His compositions, like theirs, gain strength and monumentality by the union of tectonic and dynamic features and are classic in their perfection. He calms the agitated seas painted by Porcellis and young Simon de Vlieger.

Few of Cappelle's marines are sea paintings in the strict sense of the word: most of them represent the mouth of wide rivers or quiet inner harbours, where groups of ships parade or lie at anchor in mirror-smooth waters. Masts make a pattern of verticals which is coordinated with the horizontals of hulls and the low horizon. The haze found in works by earlier marine painters lifts, and the middle distance acquires more real existence between the foreground forms and the minute details of the far distance. Space opens up widely, yet the design is well-balanced and maintains a powerful coherence as a whole.

Essential qualities of van de Cappelle are his full cloud formations, the wonderful transparency of his shadows, and the subtlety of his colourful reflections in calm waters. Early morning or evening are his favourite hours. He was not a man to paint sea battles. His is a holiday mood: cannons salute, drums roll, pennants flutter, and noble personages ride in richly carved, gilded barge. Not many of his works are dated, but it is reasonable to assume that his simple compositions done in silvery greys, which recall Porcellis and de Vlieger, belong to an early phase, and the more complex, colourful works with a golden tonality were done after 1650.

He also painted some beach scenes and more than forty winter landscapes. These, like his marines, render nature with a wonderful feeling for the pictorial qualities of Holland's sea atmosphere, with its heavy clouds and translucent air.

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