Numbered in pencil upper center A
and in a later hand in brown ink upper left: a [double underlined] 9 and and upper right corner 12
Inscribed in brown ink upper left: de geschiedenis ontrent 10 hurren de klock anno 1665 soo beyde de machtige/zee vlooten soo van den koning van engelant ende de hollanders met melcanderen heeren/seijllen ende seer hevigen ende fuirrijeus vechten
[the history around 10 o'clock in the year 1665 thus both the powerful sea fleets of the King of England and the Hollanders with one another men sailing and fightly very heavily and furiously]
and upper center: heenige duijtse schepen seer schadeloos ende wandevoirige [over there German (sic) ships completely undamaged and in dereliction of their duty]
Also with numerous inscriptions identifying the various ships and combatants.
This and the following two drawings depict the Battle of Lowestoft, the first conflict in the Second Anglo-Dutch war. The Dutch fleet, under the command of Jacob, Baron van Wassenaar van Obdam, instigated the combat, seeking out the English fleet. They encountered it off the Suffolk coast on 1/11 June 1665, but because of bad weather van Wassenaar van Obdam waited to attack until the morning of 3/13 June.
These drawings show three different phases of the battle: ten in the morning, one to three, and three in the afternoon, respectively. In the present work, we see the beginning of the battle, with the English in the foreground and the Dutch aligned behind. The English squadrons are spreading out: in the middle-ground left is Admiral Prince Rupert (Prins), leader of the White Squadron, right of center the Duke of York (de ducke) and slightly ahead of him to the right the Earl of Sandwich (zantwits) commander of the Blue Squadron.
The Dutch fleet lies beyond a narrow gap of water clouded by the smoke from the firing guns. The commander (Obdam) is halfway toward the right edge, his ship, the Eendracht, partly obscured by the gun smoke. Ranged to his left are Vice Admiral Schram (schram), commander of the Seventh Squadron, and the other squadron leaders. Off toward the horizon at the right Van de Velde has remarked on the ships sailing off heenige duijtse schepen seer scadeloos ende wandevoirige (away over there German ships completely undamaged and in dereliction of their duty).
These drawings differ from the only other battle scene in the present group of drawings, the monumental Battle of Solebay (lot 13), not only in the tremendous difference in scale, but also in their function. They were not eye-witness accounts, but later transcriptions of the battle, probably made around 1674 when Van de Velde was already in England. According to Robinson they were intended as tapestry designs commissioned by Charles II. That would explain the extreme finish of the works as well as the fact they show the battle from a bird’s eye view – the better to identify all the various combatants.
Van de Velde's work as a tapestry designer is not well known, but the inscription on the drawing of the Battle of Solebay now in Leiden (see note to lot 13) demonstrates that he did make drawings that were specifically intended for reproduction in this medium. It seems, however, that the only tapestries still known today that have been identified as being based on his designs are the two partial sets of Solebay tapestries at Hampton court, and some four others depicting the same battle (see H.C. Marillier, The Tapestries at Hampton Court Palace, London 1962, frontispiece, and pp. 30-31).
Another major series of tapestries depicting the Battle of Lowestoft must, however, have been planned - if not, perhaps, ever executed - as in addition to the three fascinating drawings in the present sale, there are a further three sheets at Greenwich, extremely similar to these in size, format and style, which show different moments in the battle (Robinson 1958, nos. 446-8).
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