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Ludolf Backhuysen (1630-1708), The Buitenhuis of the Dutch East India Company at Amsterdam c.1696 pen, Indian ink, point of the brush and grey wash with a thin line of brown wash bordering it on all sides, on paper. Bequeathed by Sir Bruce Ingram, 1963, PD.92-1963

Backhuysen was born in Emden in Germany, but immigrated to Amsterdam in 1649 to work for the Italian merchant Guillielmo Bartolotti as an accountant and calligrapher. Not long after, he received training in the studios of Allaert van Everdingen (1621-75) and Hendrick Dubbels (1620/21-76). When Backhuysen arrived into Amsterdam at the impressionable age of nineteen, marine painting was dominated by Willem van de Velde and his son of the same name. Over the next twenty years Backhuysen built up a reputation as an accomplished painter of dramatic seas that when the Van de Veldes moved to London around 1672, he took over as the foremost marine painter in the Dutch Republic.
The Dutch East India Company, or the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), was founded in 1602. It became the most powerful international trading corporation of the seventeenth century and especially monopolised the spice trade. Between 1662 and 1664 it built an enormous complex of buildings on the Oostenburg, which was home to many of the craftsmen and labourers in the shipbuilding and seafaring industry. The four-storey building seen here is the zeemagazijn: it was 180 metres long and 20 metres wide.
 


Ludolf Backhuysen (1630-1708), Careened ship in Amsterdam harbour by sunset c.1690, pen, Indian ink, point of the brush and grey wash, with a thin line of brown wash bordering it on all sides, on paper. Bequeathed by Sir Bruce Ingram, 1963, PD.127-1963

Standing upon a pontoon, beautifully silhouetted against a careened ship is a group of men caulking (sealing) the hull. In the seventeenth century, Dutch artists rarely depicted people hard at work. The warm rays of the sun give this scene a Mediterranean feel which romanticises rather than reveals the true labours of these men. Despite this, human activity plays an important role in animating and enriching Backhuysen’s sea views, more so than any other marine painter at this time.
 


Ludolf Backhuysen (1630-1708), A Dutch ship close hauled in a breeze, pen and brown ink, on paper laid down on card with a washed border. Bequeathed by Louis Colville Gray Clarke, 1961, PD.29-1961

 


Ludolf Backhuysen (1630-1708), Castle on a cliff with shipping in foreground, pen, brown ink, grey wash, with a thin line of brown wash bordering it on all sides, on paper. Bequeathed by Sir Bruce Ingram, 1963, PD.91-1963

 


Ludolf Backhuysen (1630-1708), The battle near Sicily (Mount Etna in the background), pen, black and brown ink, brown wash reinforced with brown ink, with a line of brown wash bordering it on all sides, on paper. Bequeathed by Sir Bruce Ingram, 1963, PD.111-1963

The Battle of Palermo took place on 2 June 1676 during the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78) which ultimately ended with the Treaty of Nijmegen. This particular naval battle was fought near Sicily: a brooding Mount Etna can be seen in the distance to the left. The French came in to support the city of Messina in their revolt against Spanish rule, while the Dutch supported the Spanish with a fleet commanded by Vice Admiral den Haen. The Spanish and Dutch had suffered heavy losses in a previous naval conflict which saw the death of their great leader Admiral Michiel de Ruyter (1607-76) and were subsequently defeated here.

 

 

Father and son: the Willem van de Veldes ›