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Pieter van der Croos’ painting shows the North Sea’s agitated waves washing against a jetty on an overcast windy day. Various ships sail by, coping with the bobbing and rolling waters depending on their respective size. A three-master, probably a merchant ship, is anchored off the jetty. The picture’s silvery grey tonality reflects the weather’s overall effect on the moist seaside atmosphere as well as creating the lively scene’s sense of freshness.
The small panel exemplifies the way in which Dutch landscape and marine artists made use of a reduced palette in the 1640s to convey an increased sense of naturalism, but also how perspective and pictorial depth could be rendered through the structural distribution of light and shade. In the right foreground waves darkened by the shade of a bank of clouds form the picture’s repoussoir. On the left, the spray-crowned water is lit brightly whereas the sea takes on darker greys in the middle distance with a patch of sunlight on the horizon.
The vessels are portrayed in the same contrast of light and shade, which includes them in the context of clouds, wind and water. Only the flags of the ships shine out brightly. The three-master is flying a red flag in addition to the Dutch one. The smalschip on the right is curiously flying a large flag with an additional red stripe underneath the doubled national tricolour, the Double Prince, and is heading towards the bigger ship. Bustle and activity can be seen on the jetty with its crooked light post and also on deck the vessels. Natural detail is added by the group of seagulls swishing across, low above the waves in the foreground.
oil on panel
H 43 x W 65 cm