Adriaen van Salm, 'Harbour with ships'

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Material
Oil on panel
Signature
Signed lower right A.S.
Dimensions
40 x 62 cm
Literature

J.B van Overeem, De schilders A. en R. (van der) Salm, Overdruk uit: Rotterdams Jaarboekje, 1958 pp. 223-256.
J.Giltay and J. Kelch, Lof der zeevaart, tent. cat. Rotterdam Berlijn, 1996, p.463

Provenance

Art dealer J. Bier, Haarlem 1962
Private collection Arnhem
Auction Sotheby’s London, 6 December 1989 lot 116
Auction M.A. Kohn, Paris Drouot, 11 March 1997 lot 52
Auction R.Millet Paris, Drouot 22 July 2007

Ships sail in a harbour, a busy fisherman is shown in the foreground. This pen painting by the Rotterdam master Adriaen van Salm is a characteristic example of his work.
The painter Adriaen van Salm (Adam, Abraham, Abraham Cornelisz) was born in Delftshaven, where he was a schoolteacher. He specialized in making pen paintings. Although various lexicons mention oil paintings by his hand, these are hitherto unknown. Generally it is assumed that this is a misunderstanding and that these oil paintings are by Aernout Smit or Adam Silo and were wrongly attributed to Adriaen van Salm. His son Roelof also made pen paintings that are distinguished from those by his father by a somewhat insecure style of drawing. Pen drawings are characteristic for Dutch maritime scenes and were made in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century by masters such as Willem van de Velde de Oude and Ludolf Bakhuysen. The genre was mostly popular in Amsterdam, Hoorn and in the surroundings of Rotterdam. Adriaen van Salm was an exponent of the Rotterdam-Delft group to which Cornelis Boumeester and Heermant Witmont belonged as well.
An informative article about Van Salm was published in the Rotterdam Year book of 1958. Adriaen van Salm mostly made maritime pen paintings. Exceptions are a winter scene and a landscape. The paintings varied in size from extremely small to large. He repeated several motives and compositions. He probably used an aid for determining the proportions when enlarging certain compositions. This composition is a rarity since, as far as we know, it has only been painted once.

The view is most likely a fantastical view on Rotterdam. In the past it was thought to be Dordrecht or Archangelsk. Because of the fact that Peter the Great commissioned two pen paintings from Van Salm - one is still in the Hermitage in St Petersburg- it may be assumed that he made more Russian paintings. The harbor in this painting, however, does not resemble the harbor of Archangelsk and the ships are too Dutch for the Baltic Sea.
More likely this characteristic tower resembles that of Rotterdam. Although the coastline does not exactly compare to that of the Maas near Rotterdam, we know that Van Salm was familiar with this coastline as Deftshaven is close, and that he made a fantastical depiction of a Dutch harbor based on what he knew from his surroundings.

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