Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


JAN CLAESZ. RIETSCHOOF (Hoorn 1652 – Hoorn 1719)

Shipping in a Calm Sea off a Jetty

signed Rietschoof on the log in the lower right

oil on canvas

23 x 27 ½ inches          (58.4 x 69.8 cm.)


Lieut.-Col The Rt. Hon. Sir William Cabington, by 1916

His sale, Christie’s, London, July 7, 1916, lot 77 where purchased by


Private Collection, Washington, D.C. until the present time


Jan Claesz Rietschoof, a marine painter and draftsman, first trained with the Hoorn artist Abraham Liedts. In all likelihood he then moved to Amsterdam where according to Arnold Houbraken he was a pupil of Ludolf Bakhuizen.[1] As much of the painter’s work is highly reminiscent of Bakhuizen this statement is undoubtedly true. His son and pupil Hendrik Rietschoof was also a sea-painter. Examples of his works can be found in the museums of Amsterdam; Bath; Cambridge and Greenwich, United Kingdom; Haarlem; Mainz; St. Petersburg; Stockholm; and Wurzburg.[2]

Preston notes the rarity of shipping scenes in calm waters in Rietschoof’s oeuvre and places them among his finest works.[3] Presented on an almost boundless sea are ships of all sizes and types gliding beneath the atmospheric skies of Northern Holland. A jetty to the left with a windmill and three buildings are the only hint of the town beyond. Characteristic of Bakhuizen in this work are the shadowy line of the foreground followed by alternating stretches of bright and dark water. Lively cloud effects dominated by pinks and blues that fill the sky as well as the structuring of the sails again echo the Master. But probably the most distinctive shared trait is the precise linear clarity of the scene that underscores their talent as draftsmen.[4] It is precisely this feature that enables the perfection of absolute stillness that permeates the view creating the sense of a moment frozen in time.

For the Dutch water was as important as land. Wherever the populace went they encountered dikes, ditches, rivers, canals, seas, beaches, lakes and locks. Their prosperity came from trade enabled by the sea. Goods as well as people traveled as often by barge as by road. In vivid contrast to pretty much the rest of Europe where a land-locked society was ruled by a few powerful individuals, wealth in the Dutch Republic was more evenly distributed and a merchant class came to predominate. [5] In Shipping in a Calm Sea off a Jetty Rietschoof pays tribute to the industrious spirit that created such a nation.



[1] Arnold Houbraken from 1718-1721 compiled the first comprehensive survey of Dutch painting from the Golden Age in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en schilderessen.

[2] Biographical information taken from Col. Rupert Preston, “Jan Claesz Rietschoof” in Seventeenth Century Marine Painters of the Netherlands, F. Lewis, Publishers, Ltd., Leighton-Sea, 1980, p. 39; and E.H.H. Archibald, “Jan Claesz Rietschoof” in The Dictionary of Sea Painters of Europe and America, Antique Collectors’ Club Ltd., Woodbridge, 2000, p. 203.

[3] Preston, op. cit., p. 39.

[4] George S. Keyes, “Historical Survey” in Mirror of Empire, Dutch Marine Art of the Seventeenth Century, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1990, p. 28; and Görel Caralli-Björkman, “Ludolf Backhuizen” in Dutch and Flemish Paintings II, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 2005, p. 61.

[5] Charles K. Wilson, “A New Republic” in Mirror of Empire, op. cit., pp. 38 – 39, 50.

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