Gaspar van Eyck was a pupil of the first real marine specialist of Flanders, Andries van Eertvelt. Van Eyck stayed during eight years in Genoa (1632 – 1640), before returning to Antwerp. He also went for a short period to Madrid (1649/1650), when he must have painted our Spanish galley, which was one of his favourite subjects.
About Gaspar van Eyck
Antwerp 1613 – 1673 Brussels
His first name is sometimes spelt Casper or even Kaspar.
Pupil between September 1625 and September 1626 of the first Flemish marine specialist Andries van Eertvelt (Antwerp 1590 – 1652 Antwerp). Shortly after, in 1627, following the death of his wife, van Eertvelt travelled to Italy, where he worked with Cornelis de Wael in Genoa. He returned to Antwerp a few years later, circa 1630. The career of Andries van Eertvelt can be divided in two parts:
- before and after his return from Italy. Up until circa 1630 he specialised in stormy seascapes and in dramatic representations of sea battles, often against Ottoman and Barbary galleys. These early, rather Mannerist marine subjects were painted in dark tones, often with white, spidery highlights on the rigging against a dark sea.
- His later works, after his return from Italy generally became lighter, much calmer in feel and larger in size, focusing instead on Southern views and using softer tones and a subtler palette.
Gaspar’s younger brother, Nicolaes.I (1617 – 1679was also a painter. He had been a pupil of the Flemish Caravaggist painter Theodoor Rombouts.
Our Gaspar van Eyck became a Master in the Antwerp Painter’s Guild of Saint Luke in 1632. That very same year he followed the example of his master and he travelled to Italy. He settled in Genoa, where he also started as a collaborator of Cornelis de Wael. Van Eyck is documented in Genoa until 1640. He then must have returned to Flanders, to Antwerp. Circa 1649/1650 he briefly worked for the court in Madrid, Spain. He collaborated here with the Flemish painter figure painter Jean Ducamps, a Northern Caravaggist painter who had been active during his complete craeer in Rome. Our Casper van Eyck finally left Antwerp in or shortly after 1656, when he settled in Brussels. He remained here until his death in 1673. In these final years he seems to have suffered from mental illnesses.
About our painting
Our painting represents a Spanish galley mooring near a fortress. Galleys and ships unloading on a beach near a fortress belong to van Eyck’s favourite subjects.
The flag flying from the central mast of our galley is the old Spanish flag: it is the red X-shaped cross of Saint Andrew on a white field. This Burgundy cross (“Batons de Bourgogne”) was based on the wooden cross where St. Andrew was crucified on. At the origin it was the flag of Burgundy (including Flanders). Following the marriage of the Flemish princess Mary of Burgundy with the later Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian of Austria it became a Habsburg and therefore Spanish flag up till 1785. The design is two crossed, roughly knotted, red branches on a white field. In 1785 Charles III of Spain decided to change this flag due to similarities with the English Cross of Saint George, a red cross on a white field.
Van Eyck might have painted a Spanish galley during his stay in Madrid circa 1649/1650 or during his stay in Genoa between 1632 and 1640. Genoa had indeed a privileged relationship with Spain. The Ligurian Republic of Genoa had been turned into a satellite of Spain. Its bankers were since 1557 until 16627 the main sponsors of the Spanish empire: in return for Spanish silver coming from the Americas they leant money to the Spanish crown.
Judging by the model of the hats that the men are wearing our painting must date from circa 1650, thus most probably from that short spell when van Eyck was active in Madrid, working mainly for Flemish patrons, such as the Duke of Aarschot. These hats were not yet fashionable during the 1630s when van Eyck lived in Genoa. The figure staffage might have been painted by Jean Ducamps.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a magnificent “ship’s portrait” of a galley, painted in bright fresh colours.