Jan Porcellis


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Author: Jan Porcellis
Landscape, Painting, Oil on panel, 45.5x65 cm
Origin: Holland, Mid-1620s

Seascapes and winter landscapes represented a new area for Dutch painters in the early 17th century. One artist who was among the early marine painters was Jan Porcellis, whose best work in the Hermitage is this seascape showing ships in bad weather.

The artist selected a simple motif: the ships moving out to the open sea, towards a fort. However, in contrasting the vast ships tilting under the force of the water, and the small boat with its fishermen, Porcellis introduces the theme of man and the sea. The men in the boat, raising their oars above the water, have set off at the mercy of the elements. In the rhythm of the ship's movement we see resistance to the heavy, threatening masses of water.

In this small work we gain a sense of the endless space of the sea and sky, which the artist's brush unites through the use of a greyish haze in the air. It was in such seascapes that Porcellis laid the basis for tonal painting.

The ships with their tricolour Dutch flag sailing upon the open sea symbolised the life of this young country which was not to gain its independence from Spain until 1648. Porcellis's landscape can be understood as a metaphor for human courage and resistance to the everyday storms of life. He was perhaps the first romantic sea painter in European art.

Source of entry: Peterhof Palace, 1921
Exibition: Dutch art: 17th century

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