Two sailing boats in a gale; two small yachts, each with a single sail, moving to l, further sails seen on the horizon. c.1655 Reed pen and brown ink, with brown wash, on vellum


© The Trustees of the British Museum

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: Oo,9.84

Bibliographic reference
Hind 1915-31 128
Royalton-Kisch 2010 85 (attributed to Rembrandt)

Dutch Roy Vellum XVIIc

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Object types
drawing (scope note | all objects)

vellum (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Attributed to Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)
1655 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

Two sailing boats; two small yachts, each with a single sail, moving to left, further sails seen on the horizon. c.1655

Reed pen and brown ink with brush and brown wash on vellum; ruled framing lines in pen and light brown ink (a second, finer line along lower edge).

Verso: see Inscriptions.

No watermark.

Inscription Content: Verso, in graphite: '27 [in a circle]'.

Height: 33 millimetres
Width: 136 millimetres

Generally good, though a little rubbed.

Curator's comments
Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, ‘Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school’, 2010, attributed to Rembrandt, cat. no.85.
The drawing is an unusually slight sketch for Rembrandt, the completion in brown wash being almost certainly a later addition, one that fails to take full account of the choppy waters. The subject and format are also exceptional, although boats do appear in some of Rembrandt's drawings and etchings. The composition may conceivably be indebted to Wenzel Hollar's etching of 'Haarlem' of 1634, which is a similarly elongated rectangle (38 x 119) and includes a closely comparable vessel on the left.[1]
The style of the penwork seems close enough to the master's in c.1655 to warrant the drawing's retention under his name, albeit with reservations. The juxtapositions possible in the British Museum cat. nos.84 and 86 (Oo,9.86 and Oo,9.111) are as revealing as any available comparisons, the compatibility of the masts and flags with the spears and banners in the former being especially evident. Several scholars have maintained the traditional attribution, although it was first doubted as early as 1899.[2]

[1] Parthey and Pennington no.1248. The preparatory drawing is in Braunschweig, where it was exhibited with the etching in 1987 (Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, 'Das gestochene Bild', by Christian von Heusinger, nos.100-101, repr.).
[2] By Sidney Colvin, who would otherwise have included it in the British Museum exhibition of 1899. Hind, in London, 1915, was probably influenced by his predecessor's doubts, although Lugt, in the same year, saw no reason for such caution. Nevertheless, Hind's description of the work among the doubtful drawings in the Museum may have induced Benesch to follow suit. See further under Literature below.

LITERATURE (as Rembrandt unless otherwise stated):
Bürger, 1858, p.403 ('une merveille'); Blanc, II, 1861, p.453; Michel, 1893, p.321, repr; Lippmann, II, no.61a; Seidlitz, 1902, p.136 (not Rembrandt); Bode & Valentiner, 1906, p.3, repr.; Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.965; Wurzbach, 1910, p.418; London, 1915, no.128, pl.XVII (uncertain attribution, Reinier Nooms, called Zeeman, a possibility; compares painting attributed to Rembrandt formerly in Choiseul collection when engraved by Delvaux in 1770 - Hofstede de Groot, 1916/15, p.472, n.108); Lugt, 1915/20, p.142/146, repr. fig.94 (probably drawn from Jaaphannes [between Houtewaal and Diemen], or a little further up the Diemerdijk, the area near the IJmond where Jan Six had a house); London, 1931, p.119 (not by Zeeman, as had been suggested in London, 1915); Wimmer, 1935, p.59 (not Rembrandt); Wimmer, 1942, pp.59 and 68 (as in 1935); Exh. Rotterdam-Amsterdam, 1956, p.147 (compares Warsaw drawing of a 'River with Ships', Benesch 1238A); Slive, 1965, I, no.288, repr.; Giltaij, 1995, p.101 (inconceivable as Rembrandt).

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Bequeathed by Richard Payne Knight (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Louis François de Bourbon, Prince de Conti (probably) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Probably Prince de Conti sale, Paris, 8ff. April, 1777, lot 1014, ‘Une mer chargée de vaisseaux, dessin au pinceau à l’encre de la Chine, lavé’, sold for 72 livres (the preceding lot, no.1013, was also bequeathed by Payne Knight, see Maes cat. no.2; Oo,10.121); bequeathed by Richard Payne Knight, 1824.

Exhibition History
London, Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle, 1992, no.85, repr. (Rembrandt? c.1655).

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