Overview

In 1995 two marine paintings, Dutch Warship Attacking a Spanish Galley and Spanish Galleon Firing Its Cannons, were bequeathed to the National Gallery of Art. Technical examinations determined that the panels originally had formed a single painting that was subsequently cut in half to form two separate works. Dendrochronological analysis revealed that the two horizontally joined oak panel boards from each segment came from the same trees. This technical information, coupled with compositional evidence, such as corresponding cloud and wave patterns on the two segments, demonstrated that the two panels had once formed a continuous larger composition with the Spanish Galleon Firing Its Cannons panel on the left and the Dutch Warship Attacking a Spanish Galley panel on the right. Fortunately, the two panels had remained together throughout their history, and after they were conserved in 2009–2010, they were brought together to reestablish the original appearance of Verbeeck’s work.

This reconstructed painting, now titled A Naval Encounter between Dutch and Spanish Warships, vividly depicts an intense naval engagement, characteristic of Dutch battles against Spain during the long Dutch Revolt. At right a Dutch warship under full sail has already destroyed a small Spanish galley that is sinking in the stormy sea. The Dutch ship is alive with triumphant activity, from the commander and trumpeter standing on the poop deck beneath the red flag to the sailors scurrying up the rigging and the soldiers reloading their muskets. At left a Spanish galleon is firing its portside cannons toward the large Dutch warship while trying to hit another Dutch ship with its starboard cannons. The smaller Dutch vessel, in the left background, has already reduced a Spanish galley to a burning wreck. Verbeeck’s painting, which the artist signed Cornelis VB on the red, white, and blue Dutch flag atop the main mast, does not appear to represent an actual battle scene but seems to be a nautical metaphor celebrating the victory of the Dutch people over their enemy.

Inscription

on the Dutch flag: Cornelis VB

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Henry Villard [1835-1900], New York, by the 1880s; by descent to his granddaughter, Dorothea Villard Hammond [1907-1994], Washington, D.C.; bequest 1995 to NGA.

Exhibition History

Bibliography

2007
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., and Michael Swicklik. "Behind the Veil: Restoration of a Dutch Marine Painting Offers a New Look at Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art and History." National Gallery of Art Bulletin, no. 37 (Fall 2007): 2-13, figs. 1, 11, 12.

Conservation Notes

Each section is executed on an oak panel consisting of two boards joined horizontally. Dendrochronological analysis revealed that the upper boards of both panels came from one tree and that the lower boards of both panels came from a second tree.[1] This information, coupled with the compositional evidence, indicates that the two panels were originally one long painting, which was cut in half to form two paintings. Wood veneers and cradles have been applied to the backs of both panels.

The ground on both panels is a thin, white layer. Thin layers of paint were built up to form the sky and water. The boats were then added by applying thin, dark paint followed by lighter, thicker paint. The finer details, such as the rigging, were added next, followed lastly by the atmospheric effects of smoke and fire.

The panels are in fairly good condition. The supports are stable and in plane, but the paint has suffered from blistering and flaking. In addition, the paint has been somewhat abraded in the rigging, the dark passages in the ships, the clouds, the blue in the sky, and the shadows in the water. The panels were treated between 2008 and 2010 to consolidate the areas of blistering and loss, to remove discolored varnish and overpaint, and to inpaint the losses and abrasion.

 

[1] Dendrochronology was performed by Dr. Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg (see letter dated April 14, 1998, in NGA Conservation department files). The analysis also confirmed that the wood is oak and the earliest possible felling date for the trees was 1610.

Related Works

Related Resources

  • Event Type
    Event Name
    March 1–June 1
    Mon, Tues, and Wed at 1:00
    March 5, 2012 at 2:00
    March 7, 2012 at 4:00
    East Building, Auditorium
    Name of docent
    image:
    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum
    60 minutes
    Registration for this event begins on April 1, 2012 at noon.
    Download the program notes (100k)
  • Self-Guided Tour
    Italian Collection
    image:
    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum