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The Cover
August 20, 2003

Shipping in a Calm at Flushing

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(7):858. doi:10.1001/jama.290.7.858

In the newly independent United Provinces of the 17th century, the land may have been flat as far as the eye could see, and the horizon unreachable by any but the hardiest, but its harbors and estuaries were another matter. Almost at water's edge the eye was stopped by the web of the country's prosperity: the tall masts, stubby hulls, and graceful sails of the Dutch East India Company. Slender verticals, thick horizontals, and restless diagonals drew the eye into a scene that looked as though it were etched on silver. Any well-trained painter would have considered the scene with its sea and sky of shifting light and reflections worthy of challenge. Many did, and the century and the country became noted for its fine marine paintings. The finest of them, however, have proved to be those produced by the entirely self-taught Amsterdam businessman Jan van de Cappelle (c 1624-1679). Partner with his father and his brother in the family's lucrative dyeing business, he was among the wealthiest of its citizens. Whatever sensitivity to color the family business may have developed in him, he had other advantages as well. At his disposal was his own private yacht, for example, in which he could travel up and down the coast, observing his country's shipping from all its aspects, perhaps fraternizing with admirals, commodores, even local fishermen. Van de Cappelle's favorite scenes, however, were quiet harbors or estuaries; his favorite type of painting was the ceremonial or "parade picture." Lying quietly at anchor, the fleet's flagship fires its cannon while the admiral is piped ashore in a launch. (Fans of the late Patrick O'Brian's novels will recognize the pageantry, even hear perhaps the ceremonial piping, the firing of the cannon, and the ringing commands of the officers.)

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