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Ships in Distress off a Rocky Coast by Ludolf Backhuysen

    Ships in Distress off a Rocky Coast by Ludolf Backhuysen

    Ships in Distress off a Rocky Coast by Ludolf Backhuysen was created in 1667. The painting is in National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. The size of the work is 114,3 x 167,3 cm and is made as an oil on canvas.

    The three cargo ships in this large painting are the type of wide-bellied, seagoing vessels used to transport much of the commodities that generated the wealth of the Dutch in the seventeenth century. Flying the red, white, and blue flag of the Dutch Republic, these floating symbols of national prosperity are nevertheless in peril of crashing on the rocky shore. Each ship has already lost a mast, and flotsam bobbing in the steely gray water in the foreground reveals that at least one ship has been wrecked.

    All is not yet lost, as the sun’s golden rays break through the ominous clouds—a signal to the struggling sailors that the storm is about to abate. The subject serves as a reminder that our earthly existence is fleeting. Although realistic in appearance, the painting combines elements that Backhuysen repeated often in his theatrical compositions… (read more in National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)

    About the Artist: German-born Dutch painter, draughtsman, calligrapher and printmaker Ludolf Backhuysen was born in Emden, East Frisia. Bakhuysen grew up in Emden, which had its heyday in the 16th century and was already showing signs of decline. In 1650 he went to Amsterdam and joined the trading company Bartolotti as clerk. He studied first under Allart van Everdingen and then under Hendrik Dubbels, two eminent masters of the time, and soon became celebrated for his sea-pieces, which often had rough seas… Read more

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