“Warship During a Storm”

Ship PointsSK-A-4856

I was immediately drawn to Ludolf Bakhuysen’s 1695 “Warship During a Storm”

Celeste Brusati provides great context on the Perspective Theory of 17th-century Dutch art. Brusati tells us that in order to fully appreciate an artist’s masterpiece, one must immerse yourself in a painting; fully taking in the details from various perspectives. Brusati contrasts this to Rennaisance art which is much less detailed.

Using Brusati’s framework, I noticed the following details of Bakhuysen’s work of art. Amazingly, there are several ships battling the elements in this piece.  The website states that there are 5, including mast of the ill-fortuned Hollandia. However, I believe I see 6 ships.

Bakhuysen is telling us a story about a storm.  At face value, you would be unsure if this was an “eye-witness account”, based on true events, or is technically a work of fiction. However, I did not weigh that while I was observing this painting. Instead, I looked at: each ship, how it was positioned, where the storm was coming from, and how the sunlit land, usually a positive sight for a ship, might pose the greatest threat. I also noticed that in the chaos, there appear to be two different wind directions.  The wind shift is consistent with whether the boats are on the sun-lit right or stormy left. While the sunken Hollandia would indicate that the storm has been surging for some time, this inconsistency with the wind adds to the chaos as the storm is clearly changing.

Finally, Brusati tells us how small details in a painting are critical to perspective. For example, the altar bell hanging at the right of Saenredam’s painting of the St. Anthony Chapel in the Church of St. John in Utrecht. In Bakhuysen’s masterpiece, the subtle details of the circling seagulls act in a similar manner. In his case, they are used to provide perspective on the size of the swells and ships.




4 thoughts on ““Warship During a Storm”

  1. hi there, i thought your analysis of this painting was very interesting. I think the 6th ship point of view is an interesting claim and could definitely be supported by Brusati. While the scene is exceptionally chaotic with the varying light, the white water and angles of the the waves. However, I’m not quite sure if the wind is coming from two different directions, i say that because all the flags on the top of the sailboats are blowing left. To me this suggests that the wind is coming from the same direction. perhaps it is not the multidirectional element adding to the chaos, but the strength of the captured in the painting itself.


  2. Brusati would be looking for multiple vanishing points, which would indicate that the painter (and therefore the viewer) is “standing” in more than one point at the same time–or that the painting represents multiple points of view, implying movement in time. Is that what you can see here, and/or how else does your eye move around the painting, and what features are leading the eye to do that? Does that movement imply time, as Brusati argues? In a case like this, it could very well imply the narrative action being shown.


  3. When I first looked at this image, I was drawn to the extreme contrast between the sky on the left and right. The left part of the sky is dark, dreary, and haunting, whereas the right side of the sky is brighter. This contrast makes me wonder why the artist chose to draw the sides so differently and what the meaning behind it was. I suppose he is trying to portray the storm approaching on the left and the right is the scene before the storm has hit as hard. This painting is extremely detailed and these intricate features emphasize the realism in this painting. I found it extremely interesting how you saw 6 ships as I was also only able to see 4. I am curious to know which ships that you saw which I didn’t notice. Instances like these are fascinating because they show the power of art and of perspective- how one person may see something completely different than another. It also shows how one may miss an aspect of an image that another person may have deemed extremely significant to their understanding of the picture.


  4. It was very hard for me to visualize the 6 ships you see, I personally saw 4 but I am very interested which ones I missed. Something that drew my attention more than anything else in this picture is the wind and was there a storm? That question opens up the reality of life and death for if there was did the crew make it? What do you think !


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