Jacobus and his younger brother Abraham both specialized in marine painting: realistic Dutch harbour views and fictitious Italianate ones. Abraham is the better-known of the two.
I found similar compositions of this view of Amsterdam in a drawing from 1670 by Jacobus, in a canvas painting by Abraham from 1682 and in two vertical paintings, signed by both artists from 1685 and 1687. Our painting, sadly not dated, seems to be the best and most elaborate of these.
Both the Herring Packers Tower and the New Town Tavern do not exist anymore; they were destroyed in the 19th century.
About Jacobus Storck
Amsterdam 1641 – after 1692 Amsterdam
Signed works known between 1664 and 1687.
Member of a family of Dutch painters.
Only a few paintings are known by his father, the Amsterdam painter Jan Jansz. Sturck (he had been born in Wesel in Germany), who later changed his name to Sturckenburch. His three sons, all painters later called themselves Storck or Sturck.
There are no surviving works by the eldest son, Johannes (1629/30 -1673).
Abraham Storck (1644 – 1708), the youngest, was the best known of the three brothers. Abraham and his elder brother Jacobus were versatile artist, renowned for their marine paintings, topographical views and Italianate harbour scenes.
Their river and coastal scenes were greatly influenced by Ludolf Bakhuysen in the pictorial treatment of sky and water. Abraham and Jacobus also absorbed influences from other well-known Amsterdam marine painters, notably Willem van de Velde the Younger and Jan Abrahamsz. Beerstraten. The Beerstraten and Storck families were close friends and distantly related by marriage.
Abraham employed many assistants in his studio, often signing and touching up their works. In his paintings prominence is given to the vessels; their large silhouettes fill a greater part of the composition.
Jacobus surpasses his younger brother Abraham in the painting of architecture : he is more accurate and pays more attention to this kind of detail. His palette, which emphasizes the pastel shades, is more delicate than that of Abraham, and a characteristic of his is to paint the water in symmetrical ripples. His pictures are frequently fairly large.
Jacobus is recorded in Amsterdam in 1670, but his works suggest he soon afterwards travelled in Germany. Circa 1670 Jacobus Storck travelled along the Rhine, probably accompanied by his younger brother Abraham. He crossed the border at Schenkenschans and travelled South towards Bonn, Mainz, Worms, Speyer and Aschaffenburg. Some preparatory drawings and paintings by Jacobus made after these are known from this trip.
He probably died soon after 1688 after which date he is no longer listed as a member of the Amsterdam guild.
At the end of the 17th-century, many Dutch artists turned away from the styles and subjects of their home country. Like several other marine painters, Jacobus and Abraham Storck regularly painted views of Italianate, Mediterranean ports which mixed fantastic and realistic elements, depicted in the crystal-clear colours of Italian art of the period. Such scenes anticipated the popular 18th-century Italian capriccio.
About our painting
Our painting represents a view of Amsterdam with the in 1829 destroyed Tower of the Herring Packers (de Haringpakkerstoren) and left of it in the background the New Town Tavern (de Nieuwe Stadsherberg), destroyed in the second half of the 19th century.
This view was painted from the Singel, from close to the New Haarlem Lock (de Nieuwe Haarlemmer Suis) in NE direction towards the River IJ.
The Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen in Weimar (Thuringen, Germany) holds an interesting drawing by Jacobus Storck. It is signed and dated 1670. Its viewpoint was taken a it more from the W., so that one sees a larger part of the river IJ and of the bridge between the Prince Henry Quay and the New Town Tavern.
In 1682 Abraham Storck painted almost the same view as ours, on a slightly smaller canvas. It looks like it has been cut at the top. The composition is not at nice as ours, as the yacht at left is shown in another position, thus lacking the view on its superbly painted transom.
Jacobus and Abraham Storck painted together twice a not so elaborate vertical composition with the Haringpakkerstoren, in 1685 and in 1687: the first one was with Gallery D. Katz in Dieren, Holland in 1953, the second one is in the Amsterdam Historic Museum.
About the Haringpakkerstoren
The Tower of the Herring Packers (de Haringpakkerstoren) stood on the corner of the Singel and the Prince Henry Quay (Prins Hendrickkade). The medieval tower formed originally the NW angle of the rampart of Amsterdam. It became the centre of the quarter of the herring industry of Amsterdam. The packers and their inspectors would regularly meet in the tower.
On 17th century views of Amsterdam one sees three similar towers. All three had at the start of the 17th century (circa 1607) received a graceful spire, probably after a design by Hendrick de Keyser I.
- de Haringpakkerstoren and the Jan Roodenpoortstoren (which also stood along the Singel, but closer to the town centre) were both destroyed in 1829. Their restoration and maintenance were in those days considered too expensive for the city of Amsterdam.
- the Montelbaanstoren, along the Oude Schans, still exists.
About the Nieuwe Stadsherberg
The New Town Tavern (de Nieuwe Stadsherberg) was built in 1662 on an oak jetty on the River IJ. In the second half of the 19th century this part of the IJ was filled up with a large island holding Amsterdam’s Central Station.
Town Taverns offered lodging to those travellers who could not enter a town before sunset, when its gates and its harbour were closed.
About the Dutch herring industry
Herring can be considered the patriotic Dutch fish. Its obvious importance to the Dutch laid both in the Dutch diet and in the Dutch economy.
Do not forget that in those days meat was expensive and that on Fridays and during Lent one could not eat it. Preserved fish, especially salted herring, was a cheap and acceptable alternative.
Dutch salted herring was considered the best in Europe. It has been calculated (Hochstrasser 2007, P. 38) that in the second half of the 17th century the Dutch fishing industry and its ancillary trades employed about 450.000 persons, while some 200.000 worked in agriculture and about 650.000 in other industries.
Large fleets of ships fishing for herring, so-called herring busses, were regularly accompanied by Dutch warships, especially during times of war or tension with the United Kingdom or with France. These fleets left Holland at the end of May. Most of the “Dutch” herring was caught in the waters of NE Scotland, along the Shetland Islands, and later in the fishing season also in the E waters of England, off Yarmouth in Norfolk and Lowestoft in Suffolk.
Herring were cleaned (the heart, gills and entrails were removed), salted (preferably with Portuguese salt) and put into (oak) barrels at sea. In the Dutch harbours the herring packers would open these barrels and check the quality of its content. If necessary the operations would be started all over again. The bad, rotten fish would be properly disposed of.
About the yacht at left
The small ship at left is called a yacht.
A Dutch yacht was a not too small (17 – 20m), fast, manageable, richly decorated, luxury sailing ship used by the Stadtholder (princely yacht), members of the States General (States yacht, “Staatsiejacht”), of the West or the East Indies Company (WIC and VOC yacht), certain towns (Amsterdam for example) or admiralties (admiralty yacht). In fact yachts were conceived as smaller versions of Dutch East Indiamen, commercial ships used by the East Indies Company. Typical of these ships and of the yachts was their flat transom (“spiegel”), decorated with a coat of arms.
Dutch yachts remained very popular for some two hundred until the end of the 18th century, not only in Holland, but also abroad in England, Germany and Sweden. It is thought that some two hundred yachts were built in Holland during that period for domestic and foreign clients.
Stadtholder Frederic Henry (1584 –1647), the successor and half brother of Prince Maurice, possessed a complete fleet of yachts: a large war yacht used at sea, a smaller one for the numerous Dutch inland waterways, several sail- and horse-drawn yachts for canals and even a smaller play yacht (“speeljacht”).
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it gives a detailed, colourful view of the buzzing Dutch metropolis of Amsterdam in the 1670s or 80s, where all layers of society meet. A rowing boat with fishermen is about to cross rich people who will board their yacht, moored at left; on the quay, at the foot of the Haringpakkerstoren, people are strolling among the herring packers.