Maritime Art

Ships Trading in the East, c.1614

By Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom (c.1562-1640)

This painting of ships approaching shore under the guns of a fortress and in view of a wealthy audience is full of remarkable detail. The ships fly flags from several nations. The ships on the left and far right fly the flags of Holland and Zealand; the large ship in the centre flies the English Royal Standard; and that to her right flies Spanish colours.

It is very unusual for the ships of these three nations to appear in art at peace. The ship on the left is firing in salute and those in the centre have their guns run out in anticipation of salute. It has been suggested that the landscape is somewhere in the East Indies and that the painting is an allegory of the period of peace that characterized the Twelve Year’s Truce, 1609-21.

Notice in particular the figures on the jetty in the foreground, and the servants carrying parasols for their lavishly dressed masters.

Vroom was born in Haarlem in 1562 or 1563 and is generally considered the first ‘Dutch’ marine artist. There are two important articles on Vroom in The Mariner’s Mirror archive which can be read here.

Vroom is perhaps best known for the series of tapestries he designed for Lord Howard of Effingham to commemorate the Armada. Destroyed in a fire at the Palace of Westminster in 1834, paintings of the tapestries were recreated in 2008 and now hang in the Prince’s Chamber in the House of Lords. A History Today article on the tapestries can be read here.

Maritime Art Archive

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