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Still life of fruit and a pie on a table

The Royal Collection has a stunning collection of seventeenth century Dutch art

Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707)

A Calm: A States Yacht under Sail close to the Shore with many other Vessels c.1655

RCIN 405328

Picture Gallery, Buckingham Palace

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Willem van de Velde was the son of the marine painter of the same name and brother of Adriaen (also a painter); he studied with his father and with Simon de Vlieger. His earliest paintings, from the early 1650s, include many images like this, depicting perfectly calm seas with a dense arrangement of ships, sometimes now called ‘naval parades’.

In the lower part of this painting the boats, ripples and sand are beautifully unified in a close, grey-brown tonal range. This is also a perfect example of ‘going with the grain’, an effect whereby the paint follows and suggests the grain of the wood panel while at the same time evoking the clinker boats and ripples of water. The sky contains thicker paint, in pure white and bright blue, and yet colour and tone are controlled in such a way as to retain an effect of atmospheric unity. By this means the viewer is made to feel that there is a veil of moist, sunlit air between their eye and every surface in the painting.