Mussel Fishing (c.1650)
This oil painting was made in the Netherlands around 1650 by Julius Porcellis, the son of Jan Porcellis, who was widely considered to be the finest marine artists of his time. Nonetheless, Julius inherited much of his father’s skill and, because he signed his paintings in a similar way to his father with the initials ‘IP’ – in this case visible on the sail of the left-hand boat – their work is often indistinguishable.
In this image, three fishing boats flying the Dutch flag are shown on a mud bank. To the left is another small fishing boat. Fisherman have disembarked to search for mussels or tinker with their boats. Two men on the right are moving a wooden barrel, perhaps laden with mussels. Behind them a bank of dunes is visible and a calm sea, with a variety of merchant ships, some under sail, some at anchor.
Julius Porcellis was born in Rotterdam in 1609 and died in Leiden in 1654. Little is known about his life.
The boats have all come ashore in shallow water before the tied has gone out, leaving them on the mud banks. The Society has published an important article on the broader subject of anchoring and mooring larger ships in this period and earlier in Susan Rose’s 2003 article: ‘Anchoring and Mooring: An Examination of English Maritime Practice before 1650‘
During the same period, Europe and the Atlantic was alive with maritime activity. The English were fighting a Civil War which had significant maritime and naval aspects. The society has published two important articles. They concern a blockade of the River Tagus in Portugal and also the strategic problems raised by Dutch ships raiding Portuguese vessels in Brazil.