Pieter van de Velde the Younger was a productive Flemish marine painter circa 1700. This painting probably represents the siege of the fortress of Souda island. This very last bastion of Venetian presence on Crete fell in Ottoman hands in 1715.
About Pieter van de Velde
There seems to reign some confusion about 2 Flemish marine painters who both were called Pieter van de Velde or Pieter van Velden:
- the eldest of the two was born in Antwerp in 1634 and he probably died there in 1707. He was influenced by two important Flemish marine painters, the brothers Bonaventura I (Antwerp 1614 – Hoboken 1652) and Jan I Peeters (Antwerp 1624 – 1677 or 1680 Antwerp). The figure staffage in his paintings is sometimes given to David Teniers II or to Erasmus Quellinus II;
- the youngest of the two was active until the very end of the 1720-ies. He seems to have undergone the influence of the eldest Pieter van de Velde, might he have been his son? His figures are more naïve, like little puppets, which he must have painted himself.
Both artists painted ships on the North Sea and on the Mediterranean, in general Dutch ships.
Until now, only Jan De Maere ("Illustrated Dictionary of 17th Century Flemish Painters", Brussels 1994, page 407) mentions a second painter, active in the 18th century. Museums, auction houses and the antique dealers are still attributing all these marine paintings to one and the same painter.
Therefore it would seem safer to us to make a difference between Pieter van de Velde I and II, the Elder and the Younger.
Our painting should then be attributed to Pieter van de Velde the Younger.
About the Venetian history of Crete
The island of Crete has for centuries been one of the strongholds of the Republic of Venice, which dominated large parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. In 1204 Venice bought the island from the Byzantines as part of a complicated political deal which involved among other things, the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade restoring the deposed Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelus to his throne.
In the 1600s, Venice's power in the Mediterranean was waning, as Turkish, Ottoman power grew.
In 1644, the Christian Knights of Malta attacked an Ottoman convoy on its way from Alexandria to Istanbul. They landed at the capital of Venetian Crete, present-day Heraklion with the booty. The Venetians called both the island and the capital Candia.
The loot included part of the Sultan's harem, returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca. In response Ottoman troops disembarked on Venetian Crete and occupied La Canea (modern Chania) and Rettimo (modern Rethimno). Both of these cities took two months each to conquer. Between 1645 and 1648, the Turks occupied almost all of Crete and prepared to take the capital, Candia.
The Ottomans besieged Candia for 22 years, from 1648 to 1669, the second-longest siege in history. In its final phase, which lasted for 22 months, 70,000 Turks, 38,000 Cretans and slaves and 29,088 of the city's Christian defenders perished. In the final years of 1668/1669 help came in vain from several European countries, especially from France, but also from the German Holy Roman Empire, from the Duc of Hannover, the Teutonic Order and even from the towns of Stasbourg and Munich. According to Arnold Houbraken, in his “De Groote Schouburgh” of 1718, he Dutch marine painter Jan Theunisz. Blanckerhoff (1628 – 1669) joined the last European fleet send to Crete in the Spring of 1669 lead by Josias II, Count of Waldeck with 3.300 German troops form the Principality of Lunenburg in Lower Saxony. Many of them died, including the Count and Blanckerhoff.
As part of the surrender terms Venice retained possession on Crete of only three fortified small islands that shielded natural harbours: Gramvousa, Spinalonga and our island of Souda. The Turks took Gramvousa in 1691 and both Spinalonga and Souda in 1715. Crete remained Turkish until the very end of the 19th century.
About our painting
Our painting represents probably the island of Souda, near Chania. On Souda Island the Venetians built a castle in 1573 to reinforce the defense of the port of Souda and to control the Gulf entrance. The construction works were finished within a year but until the Turkish invasion of Crete in 1645 improvements were regularly made. After the city of Chania was taken by the Turkish army in 1646 the Souda Island fortress was attacked. However the few armed defenders of fortress were able to save it. After the occupation of Crete’s capital Candia (Heraklion) in 1669 the Turks agreed that the islet was to remain under Venetian rule. But after a long siege and heroic resistance that lasted 72 days the Venetians on Souda Island finally surrendered on September 27th 1715 to the Turkish army.
Why should you buy our painting?
Because this historic document testifies of long forgotten wars.