Maritime Art

Mussel Fishing (II) (1622)

By Jan Porcellis (1609-1654)

This oil painting was made in the Netherlands in 1622 by Julius Porcellis, the son of Jan Porcellis, who was widely considered to be one of the finest marine artists – of his time though Julius inherited a great deal of his father’s skill. It is one of two images of mussel fishing by Julius Porcellis held in the collections of the National Maritime Museum and purchased with the assistance of the Society. The painting is signed and dated ‘IP 1622’ on the plank, lower left. Julius Porcellis was born in Rotterdam in 1609 and died in Leiden in 1654. Little is known about his life.

In this image a group of men are occupied near an unrigged fishing boat, lying on a mudflat. The boat’s leeboard is visible. One man on the left is collecting mussels in a basket; in the foreground a man with a red cap and gloves holds a basket full of fish and pulls a plank behind him. A third, standing next to the boat hoists up a basket full of shellfish. Another group of men are rowing out to the busy mudflat. In the background is a sailing vessel and a larger ship.

The Society has published a number of important articles on this period, including, recently Notes made by Thomas Harriot (1560-1622) on Ships and Shipbuilding by Jacqueline Steal, which explores notes made by Thomas Herriot in about 1608 on the vocabulary and technicalities of ships and shipbuilding offer an insight into the practical world.  He wrote about the ideal height of a mast, on fashion pieces, ropes and other topics.

For those interested in the craft itself, a far older article, from 1933 explores Sources of Plans of British Fishing Boats. The article discusses the importance of plans of boats and ships in nautical research, with particular focus on British boats. There are very few surviving plans of British fishing boats. This is particularly true of hull form. In this article the author lists, and comments upon, the printed sources for such plans from F.H. Chapman’s famous Architectura Navalis Mecatoria to examples printed in more obscure books up to 1909.

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