This is the old harbour of Amsterdam at the estuary of the river Amstel. At left one sees the houses boarding the Damrak, in the background stands the Haringpakkerstoren and the right side of our painting is the present location of the Central Station.
Both brothers, Jacobus and Abraham Storck, painted similar town views, but those by our Jacobus are more accurate, more detailed. Also the sky and the slightly rippling surface of the water have been painted with great dexterity.
About Jacobus Storck
Amsterdam 1641 – 1688 or later 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, 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 emphasises 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 Flanders, Germany and Italy. He probably died in or 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 the composition of our painting
There exist at least three more paintings by either Jacobus or Abraham Storck with a very similar composition: two were sold at Sotheby’s in London in 1945 and in 2008, the last one was in 1967 in a private collection in Amersfoort. In all three paintings the old “Paalhuis”, which was already destroyed at the middle of the 17th century, is still represented. It does not appear in our painting.
The Amersfoort painting is by Jacobus Storck: it is signed ( J.Storck) and dated 1678.
The other two paintings were both sold at Sotheby’s as by Jacobus Storck. But at the RKD in The Hague, the Dutch art historical documentation centre, these attributions have been changed: both paintings are now given to Abraham Storck, although it is mentioned that the 2008 version might also be attributed to Jacobus Storck.
About the topography of our painting
Our painting represents the old harbour of Amsterdam at the estuary of river Amstel. Much has changed since those days.
The right side of our painting is the present location of the Central Station of Amsterdam, built on a large island created in the second half of the 19th century. There stood originally the New Town Tavern (de Nieuwe Stadsherberg), that was built in 1662 on an oak jetty on the River IJ.
Town Taverns offered lodging to those travellers who could not enter a town before sunset, when its gates and its harbour were closed.
On the left side, behind the Nieuwe Brug (new bridge) is the Damrak with its nice facades. Damrak was and is the name of the avenue along the last part of the Amstel river (also called Damrak, but now reduced in length), between the Dam and the IJ.
The tower in the back in the centre of our painting is the Haringpakkerstoren. It stood at the corner of the Singel and of today’s Prins Hendrikkade. It was destroyed in 1829, for its restoration and maintenance were in those days considered too expensive for the city of Amsterdam. During the Middle Ages it stood on the NW corner of the ramparts of the town. In this location herring was being salted and put into barrels, hence the name of the tower.
As already mentioned above one still sees the “Paalhuis” in the three other versions of the old harbour painted by the Storcks. In this “pole house” shippers who wanted to moor here had to pay a fee. The yacht with the white sail in our painting is moored on the former location of the “Paalhuis”.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is gives an impressive, but today completely altered view of Amsterdam in the 2nd half of the 17th century.
Because this beautiful town view was clearly painted by a marine painter: with a lot of attention to the atmospheric conditions and the surface of the water.