The frigate leans slightly to the right in moderately choppy seas, although the sails have not yet picked up full wind. The Great Elector had the “Duchy of Kleve” built together with the “Grafschaft Mark” in Amsterdam in the years 1661/63. These frigates were the pride of the Great Elector, with whom he wanted to take part in international maritime trade.
Therefore, in 1665 he commissioned the now completely unknown amateur painter Olfert de Vrij (1635-1699) from Hoorn to paint the seascape “Three-master on a slightly choppy sea”, which is now being shown for the first time in 170 years in the exhibition “Vision Seemacht. A marine piece for the great elector” can be seen in a room of the picture gallery. It is the focus of a small exhibition on the development of Dutch marine painting. Lieven Verschuier’s large idealized representational painting “Kurbrandenburgische Flotte” (1684) can also be seen.
“The piece is a jewel,” enthuses curator Katja Kleinert about the large-format picture by de Vries, because he painted this picture as a so-called “Penschildij” (“piece of feathers”). A pen drawing was simulated in that the painter painted his picture on a wooden panel with ink in various dilutions and a fine brush, making it look like a copperplate engraving from a distance.
The piece is a jewel.
Katja Kleinert, Curator of the Berlin Picture Gallery
Olfert de Vrij was a great admirer of Willem van de Velde, the great marine painter who invented this genre and the Penschildij. Two smaller pictures of him can be seen. De Vrij was a lawyer, city official and quartermaster in the port city of Hoorn, the important base of the United East India Company (VOC), which at the time dominated world trade.
Although he was a self-taught painter, Olfert de Vrij mastered the technique of penschildij perfectly. Every stroke had to be spot on, because ink dries quickly and mistakes cannot be corrected. A small, more typical painting also shows a barge and barges on a choppy sea, but in the large painting he has surpassed himself in terms of dynamics and depth. Therefore, this picture will later find a place in the permanent exhibition.
The painting was last exhibited in 1851 and then fell into oblivion. The penultimate director of the picture gallery, Bernd Wolfgang Lindemann, suggested restoring this rare piece 15 years ago. Not an easy task for the chief restorer Babette Hartwieg and her team. Using the example of a Brandenburg gold ducat from today’s Ghana, the small show touches on the brief colonial adventure of the Great Elector in West Africa.
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