There is very little biographic information about the Amsterdam painter van Soest. He specialised in naval battle scenes, especially of the contemporary Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665 – 1667); he painted two versions of the Dutch Raid on the Medway.
About Pieter Cornelisz. van Soest
Documented in Amsterdam 1642 – 1667
It is thought that he may have trained with the marine artist Claes Claesz Wou, (circa 1592-1665).
Van Soest specialised in panoramic sea battle scenes:
- from the second Anglo-Dutch War (1665 – 1667),
- from the Eighty Years War (wich ended in 1648) against the Spaniards,
- from the Northern Seven Years’ War (1563 – 1570) between Sweden and Denmark-Norway, Lübeck and Poland.
Our painter might have been influenced by Pieter Jansz. van der Croos (1609/1611 – 1670) in his attention for weather conditions that continuously change the colours and light on the water, and in the way in which he painted the waves. Van der Croos had moved to Amsterdam in 1661 and died there in 1670.
About the three Anglo-Dutch Wars fought in the third quarter of the 17th century
In a short lapse of time the Dutch Republic and the United Kingdom fought three successive wars at sea, the so-called Anglo-Dutch wars : in 1652-54, 1665-67, 1672-74.
The English had helped the Dutch to obtain their independence in 1648 from Spain after a war that had lasted for eighty years. But the world seas were just too small for two neighbouring seafaring nations who both wanted to monopolise trade. The Dutch, especially their East Indies Company, had just been too successful.
The First-Anglo-Dutch War saw several reverses of fortune. It ended with the sea battle of Scheveningen: the English gained control over the seas and the immensely popular Dutch Admiral Maarten Tromp was killed.
Although a peace treaty had been signed numerous incidents occurred, especially in the colonies. Clearly the English wanted to take over the Dutch trade routes and colonies.
During the first two years of the Second Anglo-Dutch War several important sea battles were fought.
But in London, at the same time, the situation was dramatic:
- first there was the Great Plague of 1665/66 that killed some 100.000 inhabitants, that was 15 % of the capital’s population;
- at the start of September 1666 the Great Fire swept during four days through central London, destroying the major part of the City.
Not even one year later, in June 1667, the Dutch attacked the English fleet at the mouth of the River Thames: the Raid on the Medway, also known as the Battle of Chatham, remains one of, if not the most important military disaster in the history of the UK. Many English ships were destroyed and their flagship, the Royal Charles, was towed back to Holland. One year later the English were happy to sign yet another peace treaty.
This time peace lasted only for five years. It was a secret treaty from June 1670 between King Louis XIV (1638 – 1715) of France and King Charles II (1630 – 1685) of England, Scotland and Ireland, the so-called Treaty of Dover, that forced the UK again into a war with the Dutch Republic: Charles II would help France to conquer the Dutch Republic and France would help England to re-join the Catholic Roman Church (on his deathbed in 1685 Charles II himself was actually baptised).
It says a lot about the ethics in politics in those days that two years prior to this treaty Charles II had actually signed another treaty, the Treaty of the so-called Triple Alliance, with the Netherlands and Sweden against his first cousin Louis XIV.
As to this Third Anglo-Dutch War: French troops, joined by troops of the German states of Munster and Cologne invaded the Dutch Republic. They were successful until they were stopped by the new Stadtholder, William III of Orange (1650 – 1702), who had made an alliance with Spain and with Brandenburg. It is rather ironic that William III was to be the future King of England, Scotland and Ireland, reigning between 1689 and 1702.
Meanwhile the English fleet was beaten at several occasions by the Dutch under Admiral Michiel de Ruyter. The war got too expensive and Parliament forced Charles II to sign yet another peace treaty, thus ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War and confirming the Dutch for the remaining years of the 17th century as the leading maritime state.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a typical example of Dutch marine painting from the third quarter of the 17th century: a ballet of war ships under a wide sky on dancing waves.