A dramatic composition by Willem Van de Velde – an early war artist who 350 years ago went to great lengths to capture the heat of the action – sold for £5,305,250 / €6,605,026 / $8,319,163 at Sotheby’s, leaving far behind its pre-sale estimate of £1.5-2.5m.
In this evocative rendering of the Four Day Naval Battle against the English in 1666, the artist depicts his own father sketching in a tiny galliot beneath the stern of the English ship “The Royal Prince” as it surrenders. Van de Velde and his father were 17th -century war artists, who put themselves at the heart of the action. The subject – the defeat of the English – marked the high point of Dutch naval history and was considered so important that the precursor of the Rijksmuseum attempted to acquire the work for the nation in 1800 but was outbid. The work was bought tonight by a private Dutch collector and will return to Holland.