Rijksstudio Reflection

The Surrender of the Royal Prince, Willem van de Velde (II), c. 1670
oil on canvas, h 97.5cm × w 128cm
“In June 1666, the Dutch and English fleets fought a ferocious battle on the southern North Sea. With an eye for detail and a sense of drama, Willem van de Velde portrayed the moment when the English flagship Royal Prince (at left) ran aground on a sandbank and was taken by the Dutch. To signal their surrender, the English crew hauled down their flags.”

The first thing I noticed/assumed about this painting was the flags. From seeing the red, white and blue stripes, I imagined the scene was of a French fleet. However, upon reading the description, I was corrected and realised how similar in design the Dutch flag is to the French. 

What drew me to this painting initially, however, was the waves. The emotion literally elapsed, by the painter, through the movement and realism of the waves brings life to the painting as a whole. The artist has used light as a mechanism to highlight certain areas of the scene––mainly the sails––but the choppy shadows of the waves counter the sails, setting the moodiness within the scene. While the painting as a whole is realistic (realism), the style in which the artist has painted the ships is somewhat more animated than that of the sea; this stylistic decision adds contrast between both areas of the painting, therefore, adding conflict within the depicted scene. 

There are three differentiating paint-marks, within this painting, that are almost congruently divided into vertical thirds. The top-third being the softly formed cloud marks, the middle-third being the deep detail of the ships, and the bottom-third being the rough lapses of waves. This set up of “thirds” is designed to draw the viewers eyes to the middle-third section––the ships. Not only has the artist highlighted this intention through his use of light (reflecting off the sails), but also by packing in the most complex details in the ships, which counter the more uniform markings of the sky above and the sea below. The sky and sea somewhat vignette the center action of the portrayed scene. 

Not only is there two-dimensional contrast within the painting, but three-dimensional depth. By highlighting the forefront ships and shadowing the background ships, as they get further and further away, the deep mood of the battle in the scene is also evoked. 

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One thought on “Rijksstudio Reflection

  1. I found your analysis of this painting interesting. The ships are much more detailed and you identifying that and breaking it down into thirds really helped me understand why such extra detail was given to the ships. I also liked your comparison of the emotion elapsing through the waves, and how the waves are retreating the same way the boats are, as if it’s meant to symbolize that the royal princes fleet is being taken back as the losers of the battle.

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