Dutch Whalers off a Rocky Coast by Abraham Storck, ca. 1688
Maritiem Museum Rotterdam
(image 1937 x 1433 pixels, 2.3 MB)
Several Dutch fluyts lying at anchor in northern waters while their crews are hunting whales. The ships are flying Dutch colors with a whale in the middle. The ship in the right is about to hoist a whale up to her gallows. Those are the two massive wooden beams protruding from its stern. They are used to hang whale carcasses while stripping them off blubber.
Another whale is dying in the middle of the painting. It was struck by a harpoon and the whalers are rushing towards it in their boats.
Other whalers have landed on an icy shore and are hunting polar bears with muskets, pikes and long knives. Two walruses are watching the scene undisturbed, but not for long – their tusks are precious trophy.
Paintings dedicated to whalers and their profession were among the most popular during the Dutch Golden Age. This work by Abraham Storck had obviously been so successful that he repeated this scene with minor variations in several of his other paintings. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam acquired such one (albeit of a smaller size) in 1964. Another a bit bigger one was sold at an action in London in 1979. Yet the biggest version (58.2 x 75.4 cm), seen in this post, remains in possession of the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam. The London painting is dated 1688 and the Rotterdam one must have been commissioned at around the same time.