Van de Velde the Younger was the greatest Dutch marine painter of the seventeenth century. Willem was the son of a painter of maritime grisailles. After his initial instruction by his father, who liked to follow the Dutch fleet in action to gain a highly detailed and accurate understanding of ships and their appearance at sea, Willem the Younger studied with de Vlieger. That artist encouraged a less meticulous and more poetic presentation of marine subjects.
Willem the Younger moved with his family to London in 1672, his father joining him. Almost immediately following their arrival in the English capital, the two Van de Veldes gained the patronage of Charles II and his brother James, Duke of York. This picture, painted during those later years, features a kaag (a traditional Dutch vessel with a distinctive straight-raked stern with planks overlapping one another) and a weyschuit (a small open fishing boat, another traditional Dutch vessel with a straight-raked stern). Dynamic and carefully composed, Van de Velde’s talent at depicting seacraft in tumultuous water and his exquisite handling of light, clouds, and colour balances are evident in our picture.