About Abraham Willaerts
Utrecht 1603/1613 – 1669 Utrecht
Marine painter and painter of portraits and genre scenes.
Abraham was the second son of the marine painter Adam Willaerts (1577 – 1664). Abraham and both his brothers studied under his father:
- Cornelis (circa 1600 – 1666), who was a history painter;
- Isaac (circa 1620 – 1693), who was a marine painter.
Abraham studied also under Jan van Bijlert (1597/98 – 1671) in Utrecht. He was a painter of history scenes (biblical and mythological subjects), genre scenes and portraits.
Abraham moved regularly:
- in 1624 he joined the Guild of Saint Luke in Utrecht;
- in 1628 he worked in the workshop of the prominent history and religious painter Simon Vouet (1590 – 1649) in Paris;
- he was back in his birthplace in 1635;
- in 1637 or 1638 he accompanied its new governor, Count Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen (1604 – 1679), to Dutch Brazil; in 1641 he was sent with the Dutch fleet from Brazil to Angola (where the Dutch had just taken Sao Paulo de Loanda and the island of Tomé) to observe the customs and manners of the indigenous people for the Count;
- he was back in Holland in 1644, where he stayed with the architect and painter Jacob van Campen at his castle Randenbroeck near Amersfoort;
- in 1659/1660 he was in Rome. His surname in the Schildersbent, the group of Northern painters (mostly Dutch and Flemish, a few German and a single Frenchman) was Indian (“Indiaen”);
- he finally returned to Utrecht in 1661, where he remained until his death in 1669 eight years later.
Abraham Willaerts was a good painter. One clearly feels the influence of his father in his paintings, but sadly not of van Bijlert or Vouet.
Willaerts stayed six years in Brazil and in Angola, but he did not paint any specifically Brazilian or African subjects. He produced some seascapes with a general exotic atmosphere, rather than topographically accurate views of the Brazilian or Angolan coastline and islands. Two other Dutch painters, who had also accompanied Count Johan Maurits, are today world famous for their Brazilian landscapes (Frans Post, 1612 – 1680) and representations of its population and fruits (Albert Eeckhout, 1610 – 1665).
About our painting
Our painting does not hold much specific elements that might help identify the region that Abraham Willaerts has painted. It looks rather austere, with bare hills; there are no trees. At far one can distinguish a church tower.
The large ship flies two flags:
- the top one is the old Dutch flag, called the “Prince’s flag” (“Prinsenvlag” referring to William of Orange), consisting of three horizontal bands of orange, white and blue. After the mid 17th century the original orange was changed into red, for the orange dye was unstable and tended to turn to red. This then became the flag of the Netherlands, which is still in use today.
- The other flag, yellow and blue, could refer either to the Dutch town of Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland, or to Sweden.
The furthest fishing boat running ashore flies a red and white flag, that could refer either to the Dutch town of Hoorn, in West Friesland, or to Poland.
Abraham Willaerts did indeed paint Northern European shores.
A painting on panel of the same dimensions, also unsigned but given to our painter (unsold at Lempertz Cologne, 17/11/01) shows a very similar coastline with ships and fish mongers. Not surprisingly one of the ships also flies a yellow and blue flag.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is an interesting representation of a Northern European coastline showing several ships, a fish monger selling his catch and two very nicely painted noble horsemen.