Completed Continental European before 1800, London: Artists and Subjects, Maritime Subjects 8 Who painted ''William and Mary' Yacht off Greenwich'?

Topic: Painting description

The 'circle of' attribution to Sailmaker rather underrates the quality of this picture both in manner and the fine detail it shows. It is closer to Jan Griffier the elder, and for him would would be good, though I'm not sure it is.

It can also be fairly precisely dated as between 1694 (the date of the royal yacht shown) and 1699 from the detail in the background. Between between the two central ships this shows – immediately right of the yacht – the old Chapel range at the east end of the former Palace of Greenwich, with a waterfront crane at the bottom of Back Lane (now Park Row) at its east corner. The tall, ruinous structure behind, then called the 'Turret', was at this time the only survivor of the two linked towers flanking the west side of the former Tudor tiltyard, behind the east side of the Palace. All these buildings were demolished by 1699/1700, but since Wren laid out the additions to the 'King's House' (the east side of the present King Charles Court of the Old Royal Naval College which is the building to the right here) in 1696, and construction of its west range started thereafter this view may be about 1696/1697 rather than later. Immediately right of the Turret is the north front of the Queen's House (as modified by 1662) with the wooden roof 'kiosk' that until about 1820 gave access onto the leads from the top of the Tulip Stair, and the fact one can see the House's lower floor through the (unglazed) window embrasures in the old Palace river-front wall to right of the Chapel shows that is no more than the façade in course of demolition. (The GAC online description currently omits mention of the Queen's House and says the palace ruins are to right of the King's House; i.e. it should be left).

The collection note:

'Thank you to Pieter for the wealth of information on the view of Greenwich in the background of the painting and for the date range. Pieter has since mentioned that the attribution needs more work and I would welcome any ideas on who the artist might be.'

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

Completed, Outcome

Jade King,

This discussion is now closed. The painting's title was changed to 'A Royal Yacht off Greenwich' and a date can be added to the work of c.1697.

This amend will appear on the Art UK website in due course. Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.

If you have any new information about this painting, please propose a new discussion by following the Art Detective link on the artwork's Art UK page.


Charles Miller,

Could it be an early Cornelis Van de Velde? the rippling sea looks similar to others attributed to him, as does the dramatic cloudscape..

Thanks Charles: Cornelis is always very difficult - there's so little clearly identified -, but much more like his father in the shipping and general style - and subject- which is here more broadly in the Griffier camp, so I wouldn't put it with him myself. He would also have had to do it when he was about 20 and of its sort it looks like an 'older pro'.

Laurence Blundell,

The vessel shown may not be the 'William and Mary' yacht.The yacht,built 1694 was fitted with a ketch rig, i.e, it had two masts.
According to 'British Royal Yachts' by Tony Dalton (page 45) the vessel shown is more likely to be the yacht 'Anne' of 1661.This yacht was sold by James II and possibly bought back by William and Mary,after which the monograms WR and MR were added to the stern.
Mr.Dalton thought the painting was by Isaac Sailmaker.
A description and image of a model thought to be that of the 'William and Mary'showing the ketch rig can be found here:

Thank you for that useful note: I expect misidentification of the yacht was a case of jumping to conclusions from the initials! I'll look at the Dalton book and come back on that. I still think it's rather too good for Sailmaker but we may not get further there until closer sight is possible -and its currently abroad (and I may be wrong).

Government Art Collection,

Thank you everyone for their contributions and very helpful information on this painting. I have now added the new details to our file.

Thank you: I've not yet looked at Dalton but take the point about the 'William and Mary' being ketch-rigged, which this is not, so you might consider that 'A Royal Yacht off Greenwich, about 1697' would be a safer title and leave the matter of which one to back-up information though the post-1689 'Anne' sounds probable.

Would you please pursue closure here with GAC following previous note recommendation, based on the Dalton and model information already supplied, which is sound. Explanation of why the yacht has 'W/M' on the stern but probably not as representing its name can be relegated to their cataloguing notes.