Lot 4
  • 4

Willem van de Velde the Younger

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Willem van de Velde the Younger
  • A calm sea with a kaag and a boeier close in to the shore, other ships beyond
  • signed with initials lower right: W.V.V.
  • oil on canvas


Possibly with Messrs. Smith, London, by whom sold on 21 June 1836 to 'Monr. Brondgeest';
Possibly Baron Johan Gijsbert Verstolk van Soelen (1776–1845), Minister of Foreign Affairs, Castle Soelen, The Netherlands;
Bought en bloc with the Verstolk collection in 1846 by Baring, Mildmay and Jones Lloyd;
Possibly Hugh Bingham Mildmay, London and Flete, Devon;
His sale London, Christie's, 24 June 1893, lot 79, £640 10s to Agnew's;
With Thomas Agnew's, London;
Possibly sold by the above to James Ross, Montreal, 26 June 1893;
Lady Patricia Ramsay;
Sold by order of her Executors, London, Christie's, 28 June 1974, lot 68;
With Rupert Preston, London;
Acquired by the late owners on 8 September 1977 for 629,000 Deutschmarks.


Probably J. Smith, Day Books, with indices of buyers, Mss., National Art Library, Great Britain, vols I-IV, 1 January 1812 – 12 March 1867, vol. II, p. 566, 86 CC2;
J. Smith, A Catalogue raisonné...., Supplement, London 1842, p. 767, no. 39;
M.S. Robinson, The Paintings of the Willem van de Veldes, 2 vols, London 1990, vol. I, pp. 422–423, no. 597, as 'painted substantially by the Younger for the Van de Velde studio, perhaps c.1670'.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Willem van de Velde the Younger. Ships on a Calm Sea. Signed with initials on a spar at lower right. (Also possibly in a faint, fuller signature at the extreme lower left base corner.) This painting has a delicate craquelure, perfectly preserved almost throughout. The stretcher is old and the firm lining might be from the early mid twentieth century. It is firm and holds a few little old damages in the upper sky securely. These have had minimal, finely integrated retouching perhaps also from that time, with a gentle, luminous varnish. One more recent, tiny, surface retouching is visible under ultra violet light in the sky near the top of the central sail. The main body of the painting is exquisitely intact, from the lovely liquid brushwork of the foreground and fine detail throughout the ships at lower right, including every minutiae of the rigging, the rich colour and texture of the figures, the dark sail and whole body of the ships. The more distant combat further away to the left is also finely preserved, with the only hint of wear visible in the furthest ships on the distant central horizon. The great cloudscape above is beautifully intact throughout the lower and central sky, with the little old retouched damages mentioned above all near the uppermost edge, towards the right. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This beautifully preserved example of one of Van de Velde's famous Calms very probably belonged to the famous collection in the Netherlands formed by the Dutch statesman Baron Johann Verstolk van Soelen (1776-1845).

Van de Velde's ability to convey the atmosphere and tranquillity of a coastal calm has never been matched.  Here, the surface of the water remains utterly tranquil with the slightest of ripples reaching the spit of sand in the foreground.  The stillness is about to change, for the flags indicate a faint breeze, the two boats are no longer at anchor, and one begins to raise her mainsail.  On the other a sailor stows a wooden tender, while another prepares to release a the gathered spritsail.  Cumulonimbus clouds piling up above in the summer sky also hint at livelier weather to come.  In the distance a man of war fires a salute as a rowing boat approaches her, while two other members of her squadron can be glimpsed beyond.

Van de Velde first began painting calms like this in the early 1650s, and he continued to do so until early in the next decade, when their production seems to have become much scarcer. The brighter colours, notably that of the sky and its reflection in the water, would however  indicate a slightly later date for this work, and Robinson places it around 1670. 

The early history of this painting is not entirely clear, for some of the possible early descriptions of it are slightly inaccurate, and it may therefore have been confused with another lost picture of similar design as well another Van de Velde Calm that was also in the Bingham Mildmay collection in 1893. The sale catalogue from 1974 simply states that it came from the Brondgeest collection, though without any supporting evidence. As Robinson points out, a painting by Van de Velde of evidently similar appearance and size is recorded in John Smith’s Day Book as being sold on the 21 June 1836 to ‘Monr Brondgeest’. This is described as: 'A view at sea during a calm, – two small vessels in front to the left (sinister) of which is a small boat – on the other side a frigate is advancing & firing a salute – a small boat laden with figures appears to have just quitted it – another vessel is visible thro’ the smoke, a beautiful specimen by W.V.Velde f.a.o. 13 x 15 C. 1025/27.' No Brondgeest collection seems to be recorded. The reference may be to the well-known Amsterdam auctioneer of the same name, or indeed the painter Adolphus Brondgeest. The painting would also seem to be that incorrectly reproduced as lot 78 in the catalogue of the Bingham Mildmay sale in 1893, but was perhaps intended to illustrate lot 79: ‘A Calm, with two fishing boats at anchor in shallow water and two men wading with a boat on the left, a sloop in the middle distance, a man-of-war saluting a frigate, a yacht and a row boat near on the right. 13in by 15in.’ Although this description fits only partially, the catalogue states that Mildmay bought his picture from the Collection of Baron Verstolk van Soelen, 1846. This is surely a reference to his purchase of the collection en bloc together with Thomas Baring and Jones Lloyd that same year. Such a possibility is supported by another reference in Smith’s Supplement of 1842, where his no. 39 is stated to have come from the Verstolk collection and is described thus: ‘View on the Dutch Coast, during a calm fine day. This exquisitely-wrought picture is composed, on the left, of two fishing boats, from which some people are coming off in a small boat. On the opposite side, and at some distance off, is a frigate, from which a gun is discharged; and through the smoke from the cannon another ship is perceived. 1 ft. 1 in by 1ft. 3in. Canvas.’ This painting is seemingly not recorded by Hofstede de Groot, who confuses Smith’s no. 39 with the companion picture in the Mildmay Sale in two entries, his nos 213 and 296.1 In his entry Smith records that Messrs Smith had bought the picture from Sir Charles Blount Bt., but gives no further details.

1.  C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné…, vol. VII, London 1923, p. 60, no. 213 and p. 81, no. 296.