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This fairly large so-called pen-painting provides a graphic description of whaling practices of the seventeenth century. A number of three-masters anchor among the pack ice, two of them just reefing their sails. The carcasses of the hunted whales float between the ice floes and the ships, while sailors in rowing boats and on the ice prepare to strip the animals’ blubber.
Adriaen van Salm worked as a schoolmaster and textile merchant in Delfshaven near Rotterdam. He also specialised in pen-painting, a branch of Dutch seventeenth-century maritime painting, which experimented with the pictorial effects of blurring the boundaries between painting and the more linear graphic arts. Such scenes were executed in grisaille, a black and white rendering. In contrast to Willem van de Velde the Elder, however, Salm’s technique is based on the use of washes of grey ink and paint rather than hatching to indicate dark or shadowed areas. The depiction of whalers recurs in Salm’s œuvre (BHC0954, BHC0958, BHC0961, BHC0963).
late 17th C
oil & grisaille on panel
H 87.5 x W 124.46 cm