'Plymouth in 1666' by Willem van de Velde the Younger

'Plymouth in 1666' by Willem van de Velde the Younger

8 January 2023

This oil painting dates from around 1670 and was acquired in 1898. It’s titled ‘Plymouth in 1666’ and is attributed to an artist called Willem van de Velde the Younger (around 1633-1707).

Van de Velde was from a celebrated family of maritime painters. His father, Willem van de Velde the Elder (1611-1693) was also an artist and van de Velde probably received his earliest training from him.

Van de Velde was born in Leiden. The family moved to Amsterdam in the mid-1630s. In the 1650s, he was living in Leiden once more. In 1672, he left Holland and moved to London. His father followed him.

In 1660, when King Charles II returned from exile in Europe, he brought a taste for Dutch art with him and invited Dutch artists to settle and work in England. After arriving in London, both the van de Veldes entered the service of the King. It’s possible he commissioned this painting.

Father and son were given a studio in Greenwich and a salary. Willem the Elder was appointed for ‘taking and making Draughts of Sea Fights’, while Willem the Younger was appointed for ‘putting the said Draughts into Colours’.

Plymouth in 1666 by Willem van de Velde the Younger

Van de Velde’s paintings helped shape the development of seascape painting in England in the 1700s. Even renowned artists like J.M.W. Turner, who was a ‘proud owner of van de Velde drawings’ were inspired by them.

In this work, the newly built Citadel gleams white from freshly cut limestone. In front of it is the flagship of the Royal Fleet.

The Citadel was the most important English defence for over a century when it was built in 1665, over the earlier Plymouth Fort. With 70 foot high walls, it’s been regularly strengthened over the years. In the 1750s, it was equipped with 113 guns.

Ironically, for the man who created this painting, it was built to defend the coastline from the Dutch.

Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer