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Ludolf Backhuysen : “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee” (1695)

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Many artists have been clerks, but Ludolf Backhuysen was one of the few to have found self-expression in this line of work, refining his penmanship into calligraphy, and his calligraphy into draftsmanship. Under the tutelage of Allart van Everdingen and Hendrik Dubbels, he became one of the Netherlands’ premier marine painters, specializing in turbulent seascapes where calligraphic lines were developed into crashing waves and billowing sails. His patrons included Peter the Great and Cosimo III de’ Medici. According to The Kremer Collection, “In the eighteenth century, a stormy sea by Backhuysen — like a ‘calm sea’ by Willem van de Velde the Younger — was already seen as an obligatory element of any collection of Dutch paintings.”

The Indianapolis Museum of Art describes the scene: “Calm and assured, Christ sits among his anxious disciples in a boat practically engulfed by waves. Though the weather menaces — the soot-colored clouds forecast torrential rains, and the fierce winds tear loose the sail’s rigging — the rays of sunlight at the upper left portend Christ’s command for the waves to subside. With this simple but dramatic composition, Backhuysen illustrates the power of faith.”

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