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The return fleet in the waters off Batavia


The return fleet in the waters off Batavia

Anoniem / Anonymous

The return fleet off Batavia.

From the catalogue of the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar PROVENANCE: Alkmaar, bequeathed to the Alkmaar city orphanage in a will dated December 18, 1673. From 1811 to 1859 it was kept in the verger's house of the Big, or Sint Laurenskerk, but from 1859 onwards it was held by the orphanage. It was given on loan to the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar in 1875. In 1920 the board of the orphanage requested it be returned. It was held by the orphanage in Alkmaar until 1948, when it was again loaned to the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar. In 1955 it was gifted to the museum. RESTORATION WORK: 1957, N. van Bohemen, Den Haag (duplicated, cleaned, retouched and varnished) DESCRIPTION: The painting depicts the fleet commanded by Wollebrand Geleynsz de Jongh (cat. nr. 29) bound on the return journey to the Netherlands from Batavia. The fleet was assembled in the Batavia straits in 1647 and comprised 12 vessels laden with valuable Eastern goods. Wollebrand captained 'de Walvis'. The other vessels were named 'De Orangie', 'de Zutphen', 'de Rotterdam, 'de West-Vrieslant', 'de Tijger', 'de Nieu Delff, 'de Enkhuysen', 'de Vreede', 'de Henriëtte Louise', 'de Noortmunster' and 'de Koninck van Polen'. The fleet departed in early January 1648 and arrived at the Cape in March. Here the fleet was delayed for a time because it had to take on the cargo of the 'Haerlem', a ship that had run aground in Table Bay the year before. A month later the fleet loaded up with fresh provisions such as fish and vegetables on the island of St Helena. The remainder of the journey lasted three months and in August the vessels arrived in Holland. As such the return journey was six months shorter than the outward voyage, which is described in the missives at Batavia as 'een penibele ende lange reijse' (a precarious and lengthy journey). Just how precarious the journey was is recorded in the travel journal of Dirk van Lier, a native of Delft travelling to the East Indies as an assistant. In his 'Cort verhael' Van Lier describes the disastrous journey of his ship, 'de Nieu Delff' in 1646/47. Half the crew died on this vessel alone. The unusually high number of deaths resulted from a lack of food and water due to a wrong decision about which route to take. The fact that this painting made its way to Alkmaar is almost certainly due to the admirable way in which Wollebrand Gelijnsz de Jongh quitted himself of his task. It belonged to the City Orphanage, together with the excellent portrait of the fleet's captain executed by Caesar van Everdingen. C.P. Bruinvis also refers to this homeward bound fleet in his booklet about the paintings in the Orphanage collection, describing it as a well-executed tableau by an unknown master in the style of Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom. Vroom painted a similar piece, namely 'de Admiraal Heemskerck overzeilende die Spaanse galeijen voor Gibraltar' which is now in the collection of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. The painting shown here has also been linked to Reinier Nooms, known as Zeeman (1623-1667/68). Neither attribution is convincing.

Please contact Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar for reuse and copyrights.

Sources and literature

Brakel, K. van, Indië omlijst: vier eeuwen schilderkunst in Nederlands-Indië (1998)