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An incident following the Dutch defeat at Lowestoft, which was the first fleet action of the Second Dutch War, 1665–1667. A returning Dutch East India and Smyrna fleet was forced to put into Bergen, Norway, a neutral port for refuge since the English were blockading the Dutch coast. The English were anxious to capture such a rich prize and entered into a compact with the Danish king (Norway then being under Danish rule). In return for ordering the shore batteries of Bergen not to interfere when the English squadron appeared, he would receive a half share of the spoils. Unfortunately the governor of Bergen did not receive this instruction in time and so the English faced fire from the shore batteries and the guns of the Dutch Indiamen and were forced to retire.
The painting is an oil sketch believed to be the preliminary one from which van de Velde made his large painting, twelve feet long, for Commodore Bitter, the Dutch commander.
The artist was the younger son of Willem van de Velde the Elder He worked in his father's studio and developed the skill of carefully drawing ships in tranquil settings. He changed his subject matter, however, when he came with his father to England in 1672–1673, by a greater concentration on royal yachts, men-of-war and storm scenes. From this time painting sea battles for Charles II and his brother (and Lord High Admiral) James, Duke of York, and other patrons, became a priority.
oil on canvas
H 62.2 x W 114.3 cm