PROPERTY FROM THE HIGHCLERE CASTLE COLLECTION
signed and dated lower left: S DE VLIEGER 1647
Henry Howard Molyneux, 4th Earl of Carnarvon (1831-1890), who purchased the painting in Fribourg, probably in September or October 1871, when he was in Switzerland (according to his diary of 1871) and certainly before 1880 (see literature);
Thence by family inheritance and descent to the present owner.
Henry Howard Molyneux, 4th Earl of Carnarvon, Catalogue of the Principal Pictures at Highclere Catalogue, Part II, 1880, p. 26, cat. no. 10, where listed under 'Additions made by Henry Howard Molyneux, 4th Earl of Carnarvon', as "Oval Sea-Piece... S. de Vlieger, bought by Lord Carnarvon in Fribourg";
M.J. Wickham-Boyton, Catalogue of Pictures at Highclere Castle, 1939, p. 23, cat. no. 54, located in Lord Carnarvon's sitting room.
Simon Jacobsz. de Vlieger was born about 1601, most probably in Rotterdam. The date of his birth may be established from a document of 16 May 1648 stating that he was then 'out omtrent 47 jaren' '(about 47 years old). Although de Vlieger's early training is undocumented, his paintings of the early 1620s and 1630s show the strong influence of Jan Porcellis. By the 1640s, his monochrome palette is transformed into a transparent silvery tonality, with a cooler palette and strong draughtsmanship. De Vlieger painted this picture at the height of his career; here he creates a forceful counterpoint between the choppy sea and the cumulous clouds, then enlivens the scene with the band of intense light illuminating the waves in the left foreground and highlighting the ships in the far distance with a glowing light that further defines the extent of the vista.
De Vlieger was a significant source of inspiration to the younger Dutch painters. Willem van de Velde the Younger, for instance, worked in his studio at Weesp and his influence on painters such as Hendrick Dubbels and Ludolph Backhuysen is very recognizable. Although de Vlieger's exact relationship to Jan van de Cappelle remains unclear, the fact that van de Cappelle possessed so many paintings and more than 1300 drawings by him suggests a strong connection.
Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon (1831-1890), statesman, who had a distinguished political career, owed much of his liberal culture to the training of his father. When only seven, he spoke at a large public meeting of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, over which his father presided. At the age of eight, he travelled to Turkey to witness the coronation of Abdul Medjid in 1839. In 1854, he made his maiden speech in the House of Lords and from then devoted his attention to politics, becoming under secretary for the colonies in 1858, when Lord Derby became prime minister and secretary of state in 1866. While his party was in opposition (1868-1874), Carnarvon and his wife Evelyn, found time to travel extensively in Europe and it is on one of these journeys that the Simon de Vlieger was acquired. The 3rd Countess of Carnarvon, included in her MS. Catalogue of Paintings at Highclere, 1856, p. 57, a section headed 'Additions made to the Highclere Collection by Henry Howard Molyneux 4th Earl of Carnarvon' prefacing it with the comment that 'Up to this period my dear son has not added much to the family collection'. In fact, the collection was expanded considerably following Lord Carnarvon's marriage in 1861 to Evelyn (d. 1875), who inherited paintings directly from her brother, George, 7th Earl of Chesterfield (1831-1871) and brought them to Highclere. These included 'The Chesterfield Portrait' by Sir Peter Lely (sold Sotheby's, London, 12 June 2003, lot 10) and the Portrait of Charles Dormer, 2nd Earl of Carnarvon by Sir Peter Lely, to be offered Sotheby's, London, 7 June, 2006, lot 118.
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