".....the styles of Scott and Peter Monamy, and ultimately of all the English marine artists of the eighteenth century, were formed entirely on that of the Van de Veldes." From The Oxford History of English Art 1625-1714, by Whinney and Millar, 1957, page 275


Cornelius van de Velde. Initialled on back of canvas, and dated 1703. See Joel p.108

Cornelius van de Velde
son of the younger william b 1674 - d 1714.   and/or his uncle? dates?

Little was known about Cornelius when Michael Robinson was working on his magnum opus, and little more is known now. We live and learn. In 1998 I was sent some photographs of the above canvas, 25 x 37, "purportedly by Peter Monamy" and asked for my opinion. After a quick look at it in situ I had no hesitation in saying it was not, adding that I didn't know who it was by. As I was then concentrating entirely on Monamy, it held no great interest for me.

I should have paid it more attention. It was subsequently sold as by "a follower of Peter Monamy", and during restoration found to bear the clear initials of Cornelius van de Velde under the re-lined canvas on its back.


Had I been asked to give a responsibly considered opinion on who the painting could actually be ascribed to, I might conceivably, but by no means certainly, have come up with a correct identification. What put me off the painting, as Monamy, were the yacht's black outlines and the heavy, sombre atmosphere. I now see these features as characteristic of Cornelius. Compare NMM painting:  

Monamy's paintings, in my opinion, and at least until his last decade, are characterised by a softer, lighter touch, and a more colourful palette. Many of them show marked sensitivity to the effects of light, and light is nearly always used in an imaginative manner, despite the frequent naïvety of drawing.

Walpole also remarked: "The younger William had a son, a painter too of the same style, and who made good copies from his father's works, but was otherwise no considerable performer. He went to Holland and died there." Two pictures by the Younger are shown here: the upper being a detail in reverse from A Squadron bearing to Windward, and the lower the Resolution in a Gale. See MSR Vol II, p.1044.

Walpole is also very explicit that the Elder William had a brother called Cornelius. This information has been almost totally disregarded in everything I have read about the van de Veldes, except for a slight aside in Cordingly's note. Why this should have been so is a mystery. Walpole was a subtle writer, very biased and adept at the supercilious hint, if blatantly fulsome in his praise, but he did not fabricate total falsehoods. Why should he be wrong about the elder Cornelius?


Cornelius, sgnd & dtd 1707, 45 x 39

The Younger, 1690

The Younger, 1678

In 1703 Cornelius, son of William the Younger, would have been 28, or at most 30. Looking at these paintings, and especially at the signature, I am beginning to think they could be by an older man.


OK. Suppose we've now got two Cornelius van de Veldes, the younger one born in about 1673-75. To allow for an elder one being still alive and active in 1707 we have to remind ourselves that Isaac Sailmaker lived for 88 years, and suppose that this brother of William the Elder could possibly have been born as early as, say, 1620. This leaves a gap of 9 years between himself and his alleged brother William, which is not too long. In fact, allowing for the further possibility of two mothers, they might even have been born as far as 20 years apart; leaving an optimal birth date for this shadowy elder Cornelius of 1630. Michael Robinson provided me with the following note on the more palpable second Cornelius, although I'm not sure that the painter described is actually named: Note, 2016: Cornelius is now known to have died in 1714.

"He is a son of the most famous of all marine painters, Willem Van de Velde. He is living, if he yet lives, in or around London. We have been acquainted with this artist in England and have often seen his work. He is now quite the best painter we could name. He has practically the same style as his very artistic father, painting the briny sea of Nereus with the light shining through crystal clear. His ships, his skies and shores and rocks are beautifully and broadly painted. We say again, undoubtedly the best marine painter to come forward in our lifetime. He is married to the daughter of a common Dutch painter called Van de Hagen, and she has a son, a fine landscape painter, whose art we have already been considering. J.C.Weyerman: De levens-beschryvingen der Nederlandsche konst schilders, 1729, Vol.3, p.386."

David Joel, in Charles Brooking, p.108, adds: "His marriage entry in the Knightsbridge Chapel in 1699 anglicises his name to Cornelius, but he would undoubtedly have been Cornelis to his Dutch family. The marriage was to Bernarda, daughter of J. van der Hagen who was a friend and follower of Cornelis' father, W.van de Velde, the Younger." [Note, 2016: Johan van der Hagen turns out to have been the brother, not the father, of Bernarda van der Hagen. See Remmelt Daalder]

"... his identity managed to sink into obscurity for many years. ..... Later a couple of signed calms came to light .... These are in a highly finished and detailed style, more like the work of his grandfather, Willem van de Velde, the Elder than of his father. ..... his crabbed little signature, which is difficult to read. His standing as an artist in his lifetime ..... may be judged to some extent from his being asked to report on the work of Sir James Thornhill in the Painted Hall in Greenwich in 1717." Note, 2016: Cornelius is now known to have died in 1714.

Looking at Thornhill's murals today, it is hard to imagine what any marine painter could have been summoned to report on. There is a discrepancy in the above accounts between "same style as his very artistic father" and "detailed style, more like the work of his grandfather", which tends to re-inforce the idea that two different painters of the same name have been confused. The light in the briny of the two pictures signed Cornelis on this page can't truly be seen "shining through crystal clear". But does it shine through in the detail below?


Detail from the so-called McDonald "Monamy".

What if we do actually have two men here? After 1717 the younger Corneli(u)s was still thought to be alive in 1729. My belief is that his business was swallowed up, or dare I say "financially eclipsed", by Monamy well before 1725. He may have sold pintings to Kirkall in around 1713, and could have justified the use of the van de Velde name on the mezzotints. Just.

Note, 2016: Cornelius is now known to have died in 1714.

van de velde 1       van de velde 2
the van de velde studio 1       the van de velde studio 2
the van de velde studio 3
vertue & walpole
monamy & british art history
monamy website index
top

 

© Charles Harrison Wallace 2003, 2016
all rights reserved

What works more often is patient teamwork and the sharing of theories