Ships, galleys and other vessels off an Italian port by Jacob Knyff

Ships, galleys and other vessels off an Italian port

Jacob Knyff

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Ships, galleys and other vessels off an Italian port

The artist Jacob Knyff (1638-1681) specialized in topographical landscapes. In 1670 he had a studio in Paris, but he moved to England in 1672, when Charles II invited Dutch artists to work in Britain, and lived there until 1681. He has been identified as the painter of this large view of an Italian port, which is a so-called capriccio. To the right, set in a mountainous landscape and under a loosely clouded evening sky, the fortified town stretches out towards the spectator with a busy quayside in the foreground. Some of its buildings seem identifiable. For example, the faÔòá├▒ade of the church on the extreme right might be TrinitÔòáÔò® dei Monti in Rome. The domed church in the centre could be one of the two churches near the Forum of Trajan. On the other hand some of the civic architecture appears to have Dutch gables. Certainly, the cityscape cannot be connected, as has been suggested in the past, to Lisbon or Tangier for the sake of identifying an historic event, which would usually justify the exceptionally grand format. In the harbour to the left the shipping might also serve, in this particular case, to illustrate different types of interest rather than to illustrate a particular event, such as the formerly suggested embarkation of Catherine of Braganza for England to marry Charles II. The ships include an English three-decker, a French and a Papal galley, as well as a Dutch ship and other vessels. The staffage figures in the meeting and greeting scene on the quayside in the foreground are both Ottoman and European. Such a mixture of 'exotic' costumes is typical for 17th century harbour scenes. The painting was perhaps originally executed or at least purchased for Weald Hall, from where it eventually entered the NMM collection. Weald Hall was purchased by Erasmus Smith in 1683, and his son Hugh Smith was responsible for alterations including the building of its Great Hall where he employed Italians for its plasterwork frames. This was done circa 1690. The picture apparently hung on the west wall of the Great Hall.
Jacob Knyff

  • Image reference: BHC0935

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