Completed Continental European before 1800, Maritime Subjects 16 Who painted this action at sea?

Topic: Artist

This is not by Brooking, even when he's doing Dutch subjects 'a la van de Velde': it shows a fight between (Protestant) Dutch ships and (Catholic) ones flying colours of the Spanish Netherlands (Flanders), presumably before the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 - which is fine for the ship forms shown- and it's by a good Dutch -rather than Flemish- hand of about that period. Could anyone suggest the artist?

The collection notes: ‘There is very little information on our object record for this artwork. It is possible that it may have been mis-attributed when entering the collection.’

The painting has been inspected and appears to be unsigned.

Pieter van der Merwe, Maritime Subjects, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. This painting has been attributed to Willem van Diest (1610–1673). The subject has been identified as a fight between Dutch and Spanish ships and can be dated to c.1648, around the time of the Peace of Westphalia.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this discussion. To those viewing it for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Misattributed it certainly was, and I'm going to feel very stupid when identified - since some name should already have sprung to mind when I raised it as a query long back, but still hasn't...

Toby Campbell,

Any chance of a better image Pieter?

Yes, please do share the hi res image (though we request that any use of the image for income generation be recorded through Maidstone Museum)

Gillis Tak Labrijn,

The picture appears me to be an early work by Willem van Diest (The Hague c. 1600 - c. 1670), although it is hard to make any statement on the base of this image. Is there a high-resolution photograph available?

The drawing of the ships, notably those seen at port bow and port beam, their complexion and proportions remind me of pictures I recently saw in private collections. The colorite, notably in the flags, is remeniscent of Cornelis Claesz. van Wieringen's work. The stern decoration of the Spanish ship (in which I'm inclined to recognize a virgin in halo) does actually appear in a work by van Wieringen.

The picture could be dated around 1635. It contains elements of the first generation of Dutch marine painters (the likes of Vroom, van Wieringen and Verbeeck) in the brightly coloured details as well as those of the second generation (Porcellis, Hendrick van Anthonissen) in the low vantage point and the naturalistic rendering of water and sky.

Most pictures by Willem van Diest that I have seen were signed with initials 'wvd', often very small, on a driftwood or on the planking of a shallop at low left or right.

Martin Hopkinson,

Gillis may well be right see the Sea Battle in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool catalogued by Edward Morris in the 1977 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool Foreign Schools Catalogue, pp.54-5 which E H H Archibald thought to be of the Battle of Scheveningen on 31 July 1653. The Walker's painting is signed and dated 1653 or 5. The National Maritime Museum owns another representation of a 1653 battle by Diest - in this case of the Battle of Leghhorn

Martin Hopkinson,

Can the flags suggest which battle is represented here?

We won't get further with this until a better high-res than the PCF holds can be made available. Whether that is practical rests with the collection, as does any early possibility of close inspection for a small 'wvd' signature that might confirm Gillis's suggested attribution to Willem van Diest. What is beyond doubt is that it is an early to mid-17th century Dutch painting, done there, and that 'attributed to Willem van Diest', based on general comparisons, is a much more likely artist identification than any justification for leaving Charles Brooking's name attached to it. I would recommend that on a provisonal basis, or - if the collection or PCF wish to be more cautious -'Dutch school, mid-17th century' but noting WvD as a possibility. Either way it looks a fine example and a characteristic subject either before the peace of 1648, or from not too long afterwards.

I fully understand that problem. What I am asking for the moment is that you agree a change of artist attribution to one of the alternatives suggested in my comment three items above: you could also change the title to 'Sea Fight between Dutch and Spanish Ships' which is what it shows (i.e ships of the Dutch Republic and of the Spanish Netherlands if you wish to be more specific, the former Protestant, the latter Catholic). It is a mid-17th-century Netherlandish painting, not an early 18th-century English one by Charles Brooking (1723-59) or any British contemporary.

Many thanks Pieter, to confirm, Maidstone Museum has added your attributions etc to our Collections Management System, if ArtUK could update their record online, it would be much appreciated.