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A group of sailors huddle in a cave, beneath a rugged cliff. A smooth, flat sea is rendered in silvery-grey tones, darker areas suggest the shadows of the boats and pale brown and green areas in the shallows hint at the emergence of rocks from beneath the surface of the water. The sailors, on the left, are composed into a tight group. Interactions between them are intimated by facial expressions and physical gestures. While previously the figures have been interpreted as smugglers sheltering from a storm, a more convincing reading suggests they are fishermen. Their humble appearance lends to the idea that Peeters’ intention was to portray them as quasi-heroic figures, happily living an idealized, rural existence. In stark contrast to contemporary scenes of tempests, this painting proposes a positive outcome to the storm.
Stylistically Peeters portrayed storm scenes as dramatic, theatrical events. The drama of his tempests is enhanced by prominent figural elements such as vessels struggling in the waves or threatened amid rocks. He elaborates this mood by piling rocks into distinctive bizarre shapes. Here, the undercut jagged forms, which stand against the battering of the elements, suggest the endurance of the land in its conflict with the sea.
oil on oak panel
H 33.2 x W 45.7 cm