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PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF JOHN PIERPONT MORGAN, 2ND

* Willem van de Velde the Elder
Leiden 1611 - 1693 London
THE BATTLE OF SOLEBAY
Estimate
200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 262,400 USD
JUMP TO LOT
13

PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF JOHN PIERPONT MORGAN, 2ND

* Willem van de Velde the Elder
Leiden 1611 - 1693 London
THE BATTLE OF SOLEBAY
Estimate
200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 262,400 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master Drawings

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* Willem van de Velde the Elder
Leiden 1611 - 1693 London
LEIDEN 1611 - 1693 LONDON
THE BATTLE OF SOLEBAY

Inscribed in graphite in upper left corner:  het zee gevecht tusschen de zee macht van zijne Konninglicke/ maeijesteit van engelant ende de hollantse pote nederlantse provincijen/ geschiet op pijnx ter dijnndach den 11 Junij 1672 nieuwen stijll
[the sea battle between the navy of his royal majesty of England and the Holland leader [of the] dutch provinces that occurred on Pentecost Tuesday, 11 June 1672 in the new style]

and with numerous inscriptions throughout identifying the ships and combatants

inscribed on the verso in graphite:  gevecht van anno 1672 In Sollynysbaey and below sege 11 [erased 12] papieren ren? melcanderen van 5 vellen
[fought in the year 1672 in Sole Bay]
[that is to say 11 [erased 12] papers attached to one another from 5 sheets]
and in a later hand in ink:  1672 -- korsines? op een hooge orisont/ vou [1672 --? with a high horizon/ vou? (a name?)

numbered in a later hand in graphite, upper right corner, recto7


graphite and gray wash on seven joined sheets of paper
343 by 2642mm; 13 7/16 by 104in
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Catalogue Note

Between 1652 and 1674 the Dutch and English engaged in three maritime wars stemming largely from their two nations’ commercial rivalries.  The Treaty of Breda, signed on 31 July/10 August 1667, marked the end of the second war, but the trade war continued.  In 1670 the French and English allied themselves against the Dutch and signed the Treaty of Dover.  They individually declared war against the Dutch Republic in 1672, and in May Louis XIV invaded the Netherlands, backed by the might of the English navy.  William of Orange led the ground war against the invaders while Admiral de Ruyter commanded the fleet. 

The Battle of Solebay was the first naval encounter in the Third Anglo-Dutch War.  On 11 June 1672, the Dutch fleet attacked the combined French and English fleets at Sole Bay, off the Suffolk coast.  In a manoeuver that has never been explained the French headed south as the English headed north and were thus effectively removed from the battle.  That left the English, under the command of James, Duke of York and the Earl of Sandwich, outnumbered and alone. The Duke of York’s flagship, The Prince, was the main target of the Dutch.  She was attacked with cannon and fireships and was so badly damaged that the Duke had to transfer his flag to the St. Michael. Unfortunately for him, that ship suffered the same fate, and the Duke was forced to transfer yet again, to the London.  The Earl of Sandwich aboard The Royal James also drew the attention of the Dutch.  She was disabled by Capt. van Brakel in the Groot-Hollandia and then set on by fireships, resulting in the Earl's death.

At the opening of the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672, Van de Velde was still living in Amsterdam, but the correspondence of Pieter Blaeu reveals that he was absent from the city for three weeks at the time of the battle of Solebay, which he clearly witnessed at first hand.  In this drawing, he shows the English in the foreground under attack by the Dutch.  The Blue or Rear Squadron, under the command of the Earl of Sandwich is aligned along the left foreground, and is under attack from Lieutentant-Admiral van Gent and the Dutch Third or Rear Squadron [de blauwe esquardre krijgen de louff/ van de esquardre van den heer van gent (the blue squadron receives the 'ear' from the Lord of Ghent's squadron). In the middle distance, about a quarter of the way in from the left edge of the composition, we see The Royal James, in flames, with dark smoke billowing up from its hull [den royael James/graest van zandwits (The Royal James/ Earl of Sandwich)].  Further in the distance but encircling her are members of the Dutch Third or Rear Squadron:  including Vice Admirals Sweers (sweers visadmiraal van/ van gent) and Schram (Schram van hoorn/ visadmiraal onder van gent) and Rear Admiral Vlugh (Jan vlugh schout bij nacht/ onder van gent).  However, The Royal Prince still carries the Duke of York's flag, indicating that the drawing shows an early stage of the battle. She is shown in the foreground, to the right of center (zijn konninglice hoogheijt de ducke de Jorck/ tschip de roijael prinse). Off to the right is the Dutch Second or Van Squadron, following the French as they sail away. 

Although there are many drawings by Van de Velde of the Battle of Solebay, Robinson felt that few were actually completed on the spot: the most notable exceptions he believed to be three monumental drawings in the British Museum.  Others, such as the extremely large sheet in Rotterdam (MB 1866/T91; 379 x 2011mm/15 x 79½in), were probably made at a later date, after the artist moved to England.  Although the outcome of the battle was ambiguous - it was never really finished, as thick fog rolled in after the first day of fighting - there seems to have been a rather surprising demand in England for depictions of it.  At least two fascinating series of tapestries showing, from higher viewpoints, the different stages of the battle, were commissioned from Francis and Thomas Poyntz in 1674-6 and 1688 respectively, and woven partly at Mortlake and partly at the Great Wardrobe in Hatton Garden.  Drawings such as the above-mentioned sheet in Rotterdam probably relate to projects and commissions such as these, and indeed on one drawing of the battle, in the University Print Room, Leiden, Van de Velde has actually noted in his inscription that the events are as in another drawing, "but arranged with a higher horizon at the wish and command of the King and the Duke to make it suitable for a tapestry.." (Robinson 1958, p. 10, note 1).

The present drawing is, however, less highly finished and drawn from a lower point of view than the Rotterdam work, and has much less wash on the ships and the sea.  The handling, though, is not as loose as in the British Museum drawings, so it seems possible that Van de Velde began the drawing at sea and finished it in his studio in The Netherlands - which would also fit with the dating in the “New Style”.   Of the various drawings of Solebay, this appears to show the earliest moment in the battle, and the emergence of such a monumental, previously unknown depiction of this subject adds immensely to our understanding of Van de Velde's activities in recording this highly important sea battle.

Old Master Drawings

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