Aernout Smit, 'Dutch ships at the Cape of Good Hope'

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17th century
Oil on canvas
45.7 cm
61.2 cm

This painting is included in:

Gerlinde de Beer, Ludolf Bachkuysen sein Leben und Werk, Zwolle 2002, p. 47.

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Aernout Smit (1640-1710) was an Amsterdams painter of marines. He was educated by Jan Theunisz Blankerhoff, a marine painter from Alkmaar who was active in Amsterdam for several years.

Smit was first mentioned in the documents of art dealer Laurens Cornelisz Conincks, who supposedly let his attic room to Smit. Smit lived in Amsterdam on the Prinsengracht, the Reestraat and in the year of his death on the Vijzelstraat on the corner of the Kerkstraat. He was married to Marretje Jans, who owned a grocery. His marital papers state he was a seaman, however, there is no evidence for this.

Smit was active as a painter between 1667 and 1710. In 1688 he was registered with the Amsterdam St. Lucas guild. He mostly painted marines, but he also made some landscapes and beach views. His style was hugely influenced by Ludolf Bakhuizen- he even made copies of Bakhuizen's work. Throughout the years art historians have changed attributions from Bakhuizen to Smit.

This painting shows several Dutch ships before a rocky coast line on a rough sea. Possibly this is the rocky coast of Cape of Good Hope. Another possibility is the Shakespeare Cliff in Dover.

In this painting Smit shows his virtuosity. The threatening grey sky, the high foamy waves and the rocky coast are all very convincing. The drama is accentuated by the intense chiaroscuro.

Smit painted several versions of this scene. A similar painting is in the Staatliches Museum Schwerin. This scene was possibly inspired by some paintings by Ludolf Bakhuizen from the years 1660-63.

Smit signed this work on a piece of driftwood that emerges from the water on the lower right. The signature consists of the initials A.S. with probably a date behind.


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