A. van de Velde. NMM. Signed. 34 x 48.
This well-known composition is one of two versions (the other is 40 x 50) discussed by Robinson in his magnum opus, Vol II, p.1059. Although both paintings are signed W.V.Velde J, Robinson is critical of their accuracy, and relegates authorship to a copyist "without a great deal of help from the master", or "painted partly by the Younger perhaps c.1690". If Robinson is correct, all that can be firmly concluded is that the copyist (who was he copying?) could not have been Monamy, who was aged 9 in 1690. Cornelius, the Younger's son, might have been as old as 24, but more likely 20 or 21, assuming him to have been the second son (after a third William) of his father's 1666 marriage. Who could the copyist have been? Is the 1690 date correct? Did the Elder really have a brother also called Cornelius? Were there in fact actually six male family members working in this studio in 1690? At a very rough guess, at between 3 to 4 paintings per page of Robinson's stupendous 1100 page work, there may be as many as 3-4,000 paintings listed in it. Who could possibly have painted all these pictures?
The preceding page starts to put forward what I believe to be a truer account of who the van de Veldes actually were. Using the instance of this famous painting, the English Squadron Beating to Windward, somewhat reluctantly attributed to the Younger van de Velde by Robinson, I will outline my impression of when the van de Velde influence started to become evident; and which English painters were most affected by the styles and standards of their studio.
Baston c 1720 ? Perhaps later
Below is a different print of the same scene, in reverse
The above prints by Baston are, in my present view, datable to about 1720, or perhaps a little earlier. They appear to be among the very earliest indications of any positive interest in the work of the van de Veldes by native English marine genre practitioners. Even then the relationship of these prints to van de Velde's Squadron Beating to Windward is not compelling. It is as if Baston had seen the painting somewhere, and recalled it when drawing his own designs.
The fortunes of the van de Velde business, after the accession of William III in 1689, and the death of the Elder in 1693, are not completely clear to me, but then I haven't studied Robinson's account thoroughly enough. However, I will conjecture pro tem that the shop was obliged to seek a wider market, without the security of royal patronage, and in fact went into long, gradual decline, after the pattern of virtually all once-celebrated businesses which eventually end up being overtaken, or taken over, by younger competitors. During this slow disintegration the Younger kept up standards for another 14 years, until his death in 1707. Assuming that there was an elder Cornelius, he may have survived for another year or two. Then the younger Cornelius, who had married the daughter of a "common" painter, Jan van der Hagen, carried on for another ten or fifteen years with his father-in-law, and possibly also his brother, the third Willem.
At this point I think it is constructive to consider the very recent study of Ludolf Backhuysen, by Gerlinde de Beer, published 2002, which adds objectivity to a revised assessment of the van de Velde oeuvre. She categorizes the van de Veldes as schiffbautechnisch-dokumentarisch, ie technical and documentary, and Backhuysen as artistic-dramatic. The former are the masters of the marine calm, and the latter is the master of the storm. After the death of the Elder van de Velde in 1693 there is a distinct impression that the studio turned more and more towards an artistic-dramatic style. It is reasonably safe to say that the van de Veldes exerted no influence at all on Backhuysen, and in fact the reverse is nearer the truth. This would be a natural consequence of the need for the van de Velde business to appeal to a broader market.
There is a report of a van de Velde, and I am not sure if Cornelius is specifically mentioned by name in this connection, being brought in to comment on Thornhill's work at Greenwich. Looking round the Painted Hall it is not easy to guess what on earth a van de Velde could have had to say about it, since nothing could be more remote from their paintings than this spectacular last fling at the Baroque. By about 1720 the writing is on the wall. The orders are no longer flooding in. Bits and pieces are sold off. Baston is tapping the print market, sees the Squadron Beating to Windward and uses it for a couple of his prints. Cornelius and Willem, perhaps, spot an opportunity to flog off the rest of the remnants by combining with Kirkall in a joint promotional and money-making campaign. They launch the 16 mezzotints, "all after van de Velde", in about 1724. More than one of these prints are very clearly not "after" the Younger, since they are flying post-1707 ensigns. The drawings of the Elder and the Younger are released on to the market, where they are acquired by Scott, Monamy and others. Eventually the van de Veldes, assuming both Willem and Cornelius are still alive, pack it in, and return to obscurity in Holland. Perhaps Jan van der Hagen, and his kinsman Willem, feel more comfortable staying on in England or Ireland.
No more prints after van de Velde appear for the time being. Monamy secures the marine genre crown for a short space of time, 1726-1731. He fails to impress the Club of St Luke, and then Scott is taken up by the Walpoles. Scott ceases to emulate van de Velde, and so does Monamy, except on rare occasions. Casting around for material to make use of in Vauxhall Gardens in about 1734, for instance, he has a look at van de Velde's old depictions of English naval triumphs in the Mediterranean, and re-arranges them for a composite propaganda painting.
In about 1738 Charles Brooking, aged fifteen, is advised by his father, a decorative painter, to go and learn something from Monamy. Brooking produces a moonlight picture, and a burning ship in 1740. He begins to think of Monamy as not quite up to speed, and starts to concentrate his attention on van de Velde, copying some of the compositions closely, but modernizing the ships. The sequence of the four paintings below is evidence. They are arranged in ascending order of size.
B. Signed Monamy. 12 x 15¼. Sotheby 3/5/95
There are several points to note about this version, principally the apparent palette and the canvas size. This is quite a small painting. The main ship is modernized and the composition and disposition of the other vessels are very slightly altered in all respects. The sky is simplified, but still retains a similar cloud formation. The wind is not blowing quite so hard in B, as the ships are more upright than in van de Velde's painting, A. Versions side by side, below.
Version B, signed Monamy, is so like versions C, D, and E, below, either signed by or attributed to Brooking, that I find it hard to believe it is actually by Monamy. Possible explanations are that it was painted by Brooking, circa 1745, in Monamy's studio, signed by Monamy and sold as his shop production; or that Monamy's signature was added at a later date, perhaps even after Brooking's death in 1759. The palette suggests Monamy, but the precision suggests Brooking.
C. Signed C.Brooking. 201B Joel, p.140. 16 x 21½
This painting is also relatively small, and it resembles B more closely than the van de Velde original A. The sky looks rather different. The most striking variation is the red flag at the main. Comparison below.
D. Brooking. Not signed. 201C Joel, p.138. 33 x 42½
E. Brooking. 201A Joel, p.138. 34 x 50
F. Seems to be yet another close, but slightly different version. Details now discovered:
24½ x 36½. "Manner of Peter Monamy". Bonhams, April 11, 2006. A 20th century painting.
What price authenticity ?
After 1759, when Brooking died young, at the age of 36, and Scott retired to the country, there is in my view no evidence of any kind that any English marine painter modelled himself on the work of the van de Veldes. There is plentiful evidence, however, that Swaine faithfully continued to develop an English manner based exclusively on the work of his wife's father, Peter Monamy. After all, it appears that the vast bulk of Monamy's collection of prints and drawings were sold off by Swaine at auction in 1750. Perhaps someone who knows better could point out to me a solitary canvas by Swaine which is more than vestigially influenced by van de Velde?
16 July 2003. Since posting this page I have discovered a reference to Swaine's painting of the Monmouth captures the Foudroyant on the NMM website. A biography of Swaine on the same site is moved to assert: "Swaine was also greatly influenced by the example of Dutch 17th-century masters, from whose work he regularly drew. For example, his painting of 'The yacht Royal Escape' is a version after a painting by Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707; both in the National Maritime Museum, London)." Bully for someone! The painting has been found! Let's see the evidence for Swaine's "regular" dependence on van de Velde. Meanwhile, I'll have to go into Swaine's relationship with Monamy in more depth and detail. This is great!
swaine & van de velde
chronology & authenticity
brooking & monamy: fire brooking & monamy: light
brooking & monamy: storms brooking & monamy: various
monamy & brooking & van de velde: a squadron beating to windward
vertue & walpole
van de velde 1 van de velde 2
cornelius van de velde the van de velde studio
monamy & british art history
a picture manufactory?
monamy website index
© Charles Harrison Wallace 2003, 2007, 2013, 2015
all rights reserved