This picture is a fine example of a so-called parade painting, a composition with a gathering of boats in calm waters. Piled up cumulus clouds set off against a brilliant blue sky form the backdrop for a lively scene with many vessels scattered across an entirely fat surface of water, casting luminous reflections and almost entirely blocking the view to the horizon. On the left is a cluster of small ships, including a Rhine aak, which is bustling with activity. The States Yacht prominently occupies the middle-ground, its sail catching the full golden light of a late afternoon sun. The prototype for this subgenre of marine painting is probably the signed and dated 1649 work on the Merwede at Dordrecht by Simon de Vlieger (c. 1600/01–1653), now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, featuring
stadholder Frederick Henry disembarking from a States Yacht. Van de Velde had been trained by de Vlieger and in numerous paintings explored the creative challenges of this theme into the 1670s.
Dated 1673, this small, exquisitely executed work was painted shortly after the artist’s arrival in London with his father, Willem van de Velde the Elder. The van de Veldes came to England on the invitation of King Charles II, who provided them with lodgings in Greenwich and allowed them to use the Queen’s House as their studio. During these early years the van de Veldes worked primarily for the monarch and his court, however, the Dutch subject of this and other pictures from the period suggests that they also kept producing works for Dutch clients.
It is unlikely that this picture, as Robinson suggested (op. cit.), was originally conceived as a pendant to his no. 231, since that painting, which recently sold at Christie’s in Amsterdam, 13 May 2014, lot 35 (€157,500) (fig. 1), most probably represents an actual event which took place two years after the completion of this painting, in 1675.