Art/ Collection/ Art Object

A State Yacht and Other Craft in Calm Water

Jan van de Cappelle (Dutch, Amsterdam 1626–1679 Amsterdam)
ca. 1660
Oil on wood
27 1/2 x 36 3/8 in. (69.9 x 92.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Francis L. Leland Fund, 1912
Accession Number:
Not on view
Van de Cappelle was one of the most celebrated marine painters of Amsterdam, where his income from property and his father’s dyeworks gave him a comfortable living; he collected hundreds of paintings and drawings by artists such as Jan van Goyen, Simon de Vlieger, and Rembrandt. The image of great and small ships at rest on calm waters spoke volumes to the Dutch at this time—of peace and prosperity after years of war, and of things far greater than themselves.
This signed and authentic work of about 1660 has been the subject of several misconceptions: that Cappelle is not the author; that the picture bears a date of "167(1 or 5)" (there is no trace of any date); that its condition is unsatisfactory; and that it represents "the mouth of the Scheldt."

Before 1979, the picture's appearance was affected by discolored varnish (mostly a Vinylite varnish applied in 1947), and the work was rarely on view. In its cleaned state, the painting, although thinner in the sky and drier in touch, appears similar in style and execution to such works as The Disembarkation of the Fleet, of about 1660, in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. The Rotterdam picture is on canvas, is more elaborate in composition, and is on the whole a finer and more ambitious work. But there can be little doubt that the New York panel was painted by the same hand, using a comparable palette and employing a few similar motifs, in particular the two most prominent boats in the center of the middle ground (although they are closer to the viewer in The Met's painting) and the nearest sailboat in the right background. Russell (1975) also compares a canvas of the 1660s in the National Gallery, London. Especially impressive in the present work are such characteristic passages as the reflections in the foreground, the impasto strokes in the clouds and in the sunlit central sail, the silhouetting effects throughout the composition, and the luminous recession on the right.

As Kelch (1996) has observed in connection with the painting in Rotterdam, this type of subject in the oeuvres of Cappelle, Hendrick Dubbels (1620/21-?1676), Willem van de Velde the Younger, and other masters active in the 1650s and 1660s derives from a group of "naval parades" by Simon de Vlieger, and above all from his panel of 1649, The Disembarkation of Prince Frederick Hendrick of Orange on the Merwede at Dordrecht, in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. De Vlieger himself, in works of about 1649-50, and Cappelle in his State Yacht with Inland Craft in a Calm, of 1649 (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles), almost immediately adopted a practice of "dehistorification" in response to the Vienna prototype, so that "all that remained of the event was its event-like quality" (see Kelch 1996, p. 298). In the New York panel, as in the Rotterdam canvas, a church reminiscent of the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht is visible in the background, and a dignified figure, wearing a medal on a ribbon, sits in the back of the crowded sloop (or, more properly, a state barge) trawling the Dutch flag. A crest decorates the stern of the yacht, which flies the same tricolors, and a crown is emblazoned on the Dutch flag at the back of the supply barge in the foreground (which includes a cannon in its pile of freight). But there would be no point in attempting to identify the historical occasion depicted here or in any of the pictures by Van de Cappelle that represent essentially the same subject, the anchorage of a small fleet and disembarkation of a distinguished person in a calm river or bay. In a broad view, the theme of these paintings, which flourished right after the Treaty of Münster (1648), is peace in the Netherlands after many years of war.

[2017; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed (lower right): Cappelle
Henry Labouchere, Lord Taunton, Taunton, Somerset (until d. 1869); ?his eldest daughter, Mary Dorothy Labouchere, later Mrs. Edward James Stanley (1869–about 1907?); Major E. Hugh Griffith, London (in 1910); [R. Langton Douglas, London, possibly with Colnaghi, London, until 1912; sold to MMA]
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 3–March 12, 1910, no. 73 (as "The Mouth of the Scheldt," lent by Major E. H. Griffith).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscape Paintings," May 14–September 30, 1934, no. 26.

Palm Beach. Society of the Four Arts. "Portraits, Figures and Landscapes," January 12–February 4, 1951, no. 6.

Paris. Petit Palais. "Trois Millénaires dʹArt et de Marine," March 4–May 2, 1965, no. 59.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Recent Accessions and Notes." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 7 (April 1912), p. 76, ill. p. 79, as "The Mouth of the Scheldt," formerly in the Labouchere and Griffith collections.

Bryson Burroughs. Catalogue of Paintings. 1st ed. New York, 1914, p. 37, as signed "J V Cappel—(le?)".

C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 7, London, 1923, p. 170, no. 45.

W. R. Valentiner. "Jan van de Cappelle." Art Quarterly 4 (1941), pp. 281–82, fig. 8, compares it with a closely related composition by Simon de Vlieger (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).

Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 16, as signed and, erroneously, dated "[16]7[1]?".

Claus Virch. Letter to Wolfgang Stechow. August 6, 1962, observes that under a microscope and raking light, Cappelle's signature is visible but there appears to be no trace of a date; suggests that there never was a date.

Margarita Russell. Jan van de Cappelle, 1624/6–1679. Leigh-on-Sea, 1975, pp. 27, 67, 89, no. 45, fig. 18, calls it compositionally close to but a weak echo of a picture in the National Gallery, London; states that it is "signed lower right: J V Cappelle 167(1 or 5)," and records another version known only from a photo in the Frick Art Reference Library.

Denys Sutton. "Robert Langton Douglas, Part III, XIV: Agent for the Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 109 (June 1979), p. 423, fig. 19.

Denys Sutton. "Robert Langton Douglas, Part II, XIII: A Lawyer from Philadelphia." Apollo 109 (May 1979), p. 393.

Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 191.

Jan Kelch in Praise of Ships and the Sea: The Dutch Marine Painters of the 17th Century. Exh. cat., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Rotterdam, 1996, p. 300 n. 3, under no. 65 [German ed., 1996], as "probably not authentic".

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 120–23, no. 26, colorpl. 26, as an authentic work of about 1660.

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