This picture has long been recognised as the artistÂ’s masterpiece and one of the great Dutch paintings of the 17th century.

It portrays sailing ships on a calm sea; to the far right is a fortified town. The artist demonstrates his genius for holding a balance between the formal considerations of picture making and the recording of the real world, in particular the layers and tones of the clouds, the light falling through the limp sails and the reflections in the deep water. The all-embracing moist atmosphere and sense of luminosity reveal an extraordinary sensitivity to tone and were achieved by a soft painting technique which suggests rather than describes detail. This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.


Sir Lawrence Dundas, 1st Bart. (c 1710-81); his son Thomas, 1st Baron Dundas (1741-1820); his sale, Greenwood's, 31 May 1794 lot 13, bought in; and by descent.

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