Under the spell of the sea

Dutch marine painting of the Golden Age. The Inder Rieden Collection at Museum Bredius.

From 10 December 2019, Museum Bredius in The Hague will be exhibiting 67 marine paintings from the collection of Anthony Inder Rieden.

The Inder Rieden Collection is one of the largest private collections of 17th-century marine paintings in the world. River, shore, beach and seascapes, as well as naval battles and ship portraits, offer a magnificent overview of the Dutch Golden Age on the water. The painters include all the great Dutch marine artists: Van de Velde, De Vlieger, Van Goyen, Storck, Verbeeck, Backhuysen and of course Vroom.

The Inder Rieden Collection is located in London – it has never before left Great Britain and will be exclusively on view for a period of three months at Museum Bredius in The Hague from December. A four-part scientific-based catalogue that is the result of 14 years of art historic research will be published to accompany the exhibition. Of particular note, a meteorologist has examined the entire collection for the weather and climate conditions depicted in the paintings for the catalogue.

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Historic moments

The Inder Rieden collection, built up since 1981, is characterised by its enormous variety of themes, atmospheres and stories. The entire 17th century, the golden age of Dutch seafaring, is represented in the almost 70 paintings.

On the threshold of the new century, Andries van Eervelt painted The Return to Amsterdam of the Second Expedition to the East Indies. This expedition (which sailed to locations including Ambon and the Banda Islands in Indonesia) laid the foundations for later trade with Southeast Asia and the creation of the Dutch East India Company. Van Eervelt painted four of the eight three-masters that returned: the Vrieslant, Hollandia, Overijssel and Mauritius. Visible in the background is Amsterdam, where – according to tradition – the church bells rang to welcome home the ships on 19 July 1599.

Another historic moment at the start of the 17th century was the Battle of Gibraltar in 1607. During this battle, 26 smaller Dutch ships defeated the entire Spanish fleet of 21 ships, including ten of their largest galleons. The battle led to the negotiations that would herald The Twelve Years’ Truce (1609-1621). Cornelis Verbeek painted the battle in c. 1623, recording the tactic employed by the Dutch: they approached the enormous Spanish galleon with two smaller ships in order to then board and overpower it. The Rock of Gibraltar appears on the right. The format of the work – 12 x 32.5cm – is unusual. This is particularly small when compared with the enormous version depicting the same event that can be admired in The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam (Cornelis van Wieringen, The Battle of Gibraltar, 1.80 x 4.90m).

The people of Amsterdam were equally excited exactly 90 years later when the tsar of Russia visited their city. The Dutch Republic’s heyday was already over, but Peter the Great knew exactly the best place for learning the shipbuilding trade: Zaandam, just north of the city. He spent several months in the Netherlands, a visit that would go down in history. On 1 September 1697, a Mock Sea Battle was held on the IJ for the ruler, a simulated battle between Dutch ships that was often performed as a tribute to distinguished visitors. The illustrious tsar is probably on the small ship with the white-blue-red flag.

‘Women-Rinsing’

One of the largest 17th-century beach views is also in the Inder Rieden Collection: The Beach at Scheveningen by Jan van Goyen from 1642 (1.30 x 1.90 m). Van Goyen paid particular attention to the composition of the various groups of people and individuals who lend the work great depth. Just like today, people from all walks of life headed to the seaside on a sunny day in the 17th century. Fishermen are bringing in their catch, the people of Scheveningen are sitting together on the beach, but there is also a fashionable coach, drawn by six horses. A popular courtship tradition of that time, particularly in the month of May, also appears: the practice of ‘vrouwenspoelerij’, ‘women-rinsing’. A man would suddenly and unexpectedly pick up his sweetheart, carry her into the sea and once she was sufficiently wet, he would roll her down a dune and then smear her with sand. Based on her reaction, he would then have to gauge whether or not his ‘actions’ had been appreciated. This painting’s history certainly deserves a mention: it once hung in Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame) and was owned by the Earls of Carnarvon (famous for discovering Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922).

Choiseul and Rothschild

Another illustrious owner of one of the paintings now in the Inder Rieden Collection was Etienne-François Marquis de Stainville, Duc de Choiseul, the influential Foreign Minister of France under Louis XVI. The canvas was subsequently in the collection of the British Rothschild family for more than a hundred years. In the Beach Scene from c. 1665 by Ludolf Backhuysen, an elegantly attired man holds on to his hat to stop it from blowing away. Unsurprising given the stiff breeze that is blowing and, typical of Backhuysen, the sea behind is very choppy. It is high tide, which is why two fishermen have brought their pink (a small fishing boat) up onto the beach. Backhuysen was considered one of the forerunners of Romanticism thanks to the sharp contrasts of light and shade that are also evident in this work.

Character and atmosphere

Collector Inder Rieden has always been fascinated by paintings that convey a particular character and atmosphere. He believes that you (almost) have to be able to feel, hear or smell the sea in a painting. Which is why one of his favourite painters is Hendrick Dubbels, who is represented by five works in the collection, including River Mouth with Fishing Boats. This atmospheric work is almost completely taken up by a vast, threatening sky. Inder Rieden says: ‘There is very little in this painting, a great deal is left empty, but in terms of composition and lighting this work is unparalleled. For me it’s an absolute masterpiece’.

The Beach near Egmond aan Zee (1644/54) by Simon de Vlieger is equally atmospheric. Inder Rieden asked the German meteorologist Franz Ossing to examine the weather conditions in all the paintings in his collection. What kind of weather appears in the painting? Is the painted portrayal accurate? Which season is depicted? Ossing analysed the weather in this beachscape and concluded it was typical of the Dutch North Sea coast between November and January. ‘Low-hanging cumulus clouds with grey undersides, a horizon discernible only through hazy mist. Weakly-filled sails and the direction of the cloud movement indicate a moderate wind from a westerly direction. […] Such bright and dark ray bundles (coming from the clouds) are often seen in air with high humidity.’ The meteorologist also discovered that not all painters strictly adhered to nature. In the panel A ‘Damloper’ and Other Vessels in a Stiff Breeze by Abraham van Beijeren from c. 1645-50 there is certainly a stiff breeze. The wind is blowing from left to right (as can be seen from the flags) – the clouds, however, are moving from right to left. Meteorologically impossible, but better for the composition. Ossing calls this an ‘invented reality’.

Inder Rieden Collection

Anthony Inder Rieden (1940) has been ‘under the spell of the sea’ his entire life. He spent his younger years on the beach and by the sea near Haarlem, moved abroad in 1965 and has been collecting marine paintings for almost 40 years. Inder Rieden has gradually built up one of the largest private marine collections in the world. It was the father of the art dealer Willem Jan Hoogsteder, John Hoogsteder, who set Inder Rieden on the path of this specific genre. The exhibition in The Hague will be the first time Inder Rieden has shown his entire collection of 67 paintings. Under the spell of the Sea will only be on view in Museum Bredius in The Hague. With the exception of three paintings that are on long-term loan to museums in the Netherlands and Germany (which will also be in the exhibition), the entire collection is located in Inder Rieden’s house in London and is not accessible to the public.

Catalogue

An extensive catalogue in four parts, presented in a slip case, will accompany the exhibition. The catalogue has been compiled by art historian Gerlinde de Beer and is published by Primavera Pers (Leiden), priced at c. €150.

Museum Bredius

When Abraham Bredius died aged around 90 in 1946, he left his entire collection of more than 200 paintings to the City of The Hague. When Bredius left the Netherlands for Monaco in 1924, he turned his large house at 6 Prinsengracht in The Hague into a museum. His collection of paintings, drawings, antique furniture, silver, crystal and porcelain was displayed there for everyone to enjoy until 1985. After the museum closed, the collection went into storage, but on the initiative of a number of Hague art lovers and with the support of sponsors, the Museum Bredius was able to re-open its doors at 14 Lange Vijverberg in 1990.

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Under the spell of the Sea December 10, 2019 – March 1, 2020

For pressinformation about the exhibition Under the spell of the Sea or images: [email protected] or +31 (0) 6 22 978 444.