. 41½ x 68¼. Attributed to Isaac Sailmaker. Ferens Art Gallery, Hull
This view is now said to be of Portchester


? Jacob Knyff (1638-1681) ? Isaac Sailmaker (1633-1721) ?

A sumptuous catalogue of the collection of old masters in the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, From Medieval to Regency, newly (2002) compiled by the leading art historian Christopher Wright, raises an interesting question in connection with the view depicted above. I was initially in touch with Mr Wright in connection with the attribution of the Ferens Gallery painting to Isaac Sailmaker, as it struck me that the picture more strongly suggested the hand of Jacob Knyff. He expressed a kind interest, but said it was too late to introduce any thoughts on the matter, as the catalogue was already being printed. However, he also told me that the view itself had conclusively been shown to be of Portchester, Portsmouth, and was not of Sheerness. This has prompted a closer look at some of the paintings posted on the previous page. The sectioned details of the coastline are ordered in sequence by conjectured date, ie the Ferens painting is regarded as the earliest.

. 41½ x 68¼. Full picture above. Fort appearance suggests early date: c 1675-80?

The catalogue note in From Medieval to Regency, p.266, identifies the location, thus: "The Site: The entire coastal stretch of the Roman fortifications of Portchester Castle is visible in the background along with the keep of the later Norman castle which occupies one corner of the Roman site." Since no honest man fears to confess error, I would willingly see my doubts proved wrong by convincing evidence. At present I find it difficult to accept the new identification, although, looking at the Sailmaker print of Portsmouth, below, it may be that the land mass to the left of the fort is represented in the Ferens painting. On the other hand, the buildings to the right still seem to correspond almost perfectly with Sheerness, and not with Portsmouth. Click on detail for the Portsmouth print.

click for sailmaker

. Said to be Sheerness, 42 x 69, attributed to Jacob Knyff.

This painting (A1) is probably the one sold at Sotheby's in 1979, and later resold in 1986. At both auctions it appears to have been attributed to Jacob Knyff. I was unaware of this picture when I first thought the Ferens painting might be by Knyff. The flag flying over the fort seems unnaturally large, suggesting a copyist. Interestingly, although the variation in the shipping is very great, the canvas dimensions are almost identical. Is this of any significance?

. Picture dimensions unknown. Attributed to Sailmaker

The depiction of the fort at left is so unclear here that any comment is uncertain. Little is known to me of this picture. However, it seems fairly early. If Knyff hadn't died in 1681 I'd have thought it might have been his, but perhaps it is an early repetition of his composition, with salient additions, by Sailmaker.

. Print inscribed Kyp after Sailmaker. Kyp died 1722, aged about 70. (Walpole)

The catalogue comments: "This print was probably acquired on the false assumption that it depicted the same site as the painting, now clearly identifiable as Portchester Castle." However, the only major site difference I can note between this print and the Ferens painting is the presence of a much more prominent tower in the centre of the fort, surmounted by a flag of greatly exaggerated size. There is also what appears to be a stretch of land, with a building, to the far left of the coastline in B, which is not present in the other paintings, and perhaps it is on this feature that the identification of Portchester is based. Otherwise the land and all buildings to the right of the fort seem practically identical. The print obviously dates after 1707, and both Kyp and Sailmaker were dead by 1722, providing a possible 15 year period for the issue of this print. Conjecturally, Sailmaker based his drawing on the Ferens painting, varied the shipping, and added a strong flavour of patriotism. Shall we say circa 1710?

. Mirror inset, described as view of Sheerness, signed P.Monamy.


My impression is that Monamy based this decorative insert above a three-panelled mirror directly on the Sailmaker print, say about 1710-1720. During these years he would still have been fully active as a decorator, was following Sailmaker, whom he very probably knew personally, and showing extremely little influence, or none at all, of van de Velde. The evidence for his use of prints as painting aids grows increasingly convincing. There appear to be no prints after the van de Veldes before 1725. There are some after Bakhuysen, et al.


The presence of the small vessel, centre right, in the two pictures shown left and below makes it impossible for me to think that either Sailmaker or Monamy had anything to do with them. The pre-1707 canton is of no significance.

. 13½ x 27½. Sailmaker signature. On panel. Very similar, but not the same as D1 and E1.
To an ignoramus, the small vessel, centre right, appears to be sailing against the wind.
It's really quite ludicrous. Someone's risible idea of a joke.

. 12 x 15¾. Bears Monamy signature. Photographic print on canvas backing.

On reflection, taking the above observations into account, along with many other logical factors, including their dates and the evidence of their artistic, political, social and financial standing, I am tending increasingly strongly to the belief that neither Jacob Knyff nor Isaac Sailmaker were any more intimately linked with the van de Velde "workshop" or "studio" than Peter Monamy. Even less, in terms of style. They may have replicated one or two van de Velde canvases, but other than the presence of shipping, nothing about the paintings here, in subject matter or manner, suggests the work of the van de Veldes in any way at all.

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