Our marine specialist Wou lived and worked in Amsterdam in a house which was rightfully called “the whale”.
This early composition testifies of the high level that the art of Wou can sometimes reach.
About Claes Claesz. Wou
Amsterdam circa 1592 – 1665 Amsterdam
From at least 1635 until his death in 1665 Wou lived in Amsterdam in the same house called "De Walvis" ("the Wale") on the Prinsengracht.
At some stage he also dealt in tobacco and he was also active as a panel maker. A fair number of his fellow Amsterdam painters are known to have bought their panels with him (we know of their debts due to Wou for these panels).
Wou is of course best known for his mature works, which are influenced by the tonal style of Jan Porcellis (and of Simon de Vliegher). Wou often painted three or four ships, heeling heavily in a violent storm. Sometimes he added a rocky coastline to these compositions. The monochrome paintings from this period, which roughly coincides with the 1630s, are characterised by the typical use of grey and brownish tones.
About our painting
Wou’s rare, early marine paintings, such as ours, are indebted to Andries van Eertvelt, Hendrick Vroom and Cornelis Claesz. van Wieringen.
Wou was one of those rare 17th century Dutch painters whose quality of production was sadly very uneven. While our painting is of a high quality I found two other compositions with similar views of Fort Rammekens and nearby Flushing. Both these paintings do not at all attain the high quality that one finds in our painting. On top of these two pictures I also found a painting sold at Christie’s London, October 2012, which shows a similar composition with ships, while the view of the fortress and of Flushing are missing.
About our painter – dealer in tobacco
Circa 1629 Wou was also active as a dealer in tobacco.
After the Caribbean Indians had offered Columbus a pipe with tobacco this commodity became rapidly a popular status symbol in Europe. It was grown in the West Indies, Venezuela, Northern Brazil and in Virginia. After Sir Francis Drake had brought it to England it would be the Dutch who would become the major traders in tobacco. Amsterdam was its undisputed main continental market, although London remained also important. Protestant preachers soon criticized tobacco, for people became addicted to it and its profit flies away in smoke.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because this water ballet of ships testifies of the early economic and military power of Holland.
Because this beautiful painting shows a high level of execution, which sadly is not always evident with Wou’s paintings.