The Dutch Fleet under Sail
by Willem Van De Velde The Elder, 1672
Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy
(image 8000 x 4400 px, 5,14MB)
‘The Dutch Fleet under Sail’ is believed to be a depiction of the Dutch battle fleet prepared to set sail for the Medway and Sheerness in 1667. This expedition commanded by Admiral De Ruyter resulted in a stunning success. Much of the English navy was destroyed or captured. The Dutch ships that took part in that attack are represented on this painting. At the right is the Witte Olifant (built 1666) easily recognizable by a white elephant on her stern. Further right is the Vrijheid (the Freedom, built 1651, blown up in action 1676). To the left of the Witte Olifant is the Zeelandia with the coat of arms of Zeelandia on her stern. The center of the painting is occupied by the Gouden Leeuw (built 1666), with the image of a rampant golden lion on her tafferel. In the left foreground is the Huis Tijdverdrijf. In the left background the Zeven Provincien is seen. Her stern is decorated with the coat of arms of the seven Provinces of the Republic.
This painting is now kept in Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy. It was acquired in 1674 by Cardinal Leopold de Medici who at that time was travelling to Holland accompanied by his nephew Cosimo III, the crown prince of Tuscany. While being in Holland they visited a number of artists’ studios including the one of Willem van de Velde the Elder. The cardinal and the crown prince were captivated by the artist’s work and purchased a number of his paintings and among them “The Dutch Fleet under Sail”. The cardinal paid 325 guilders for this painting. This work has numerous carefully drawn details that can be studied on this high resolution image.