This marine painting is emphatic of the best artwork of Abraham Sturchenburch- better known by his nom de brush, Abraham Storck -wherein he puts a superior touch to the visual narrative of mariners and passengers arraigning their belongings and destinations. This attractive example presents us with an imaginary compositional record of a single moment in time in the waterway just beyond the Gibraltar Straits.
The sailing ships in the heart of the channel is a Mediterranean Dhow, with its dual lanteen-like rigged masts and yards. Beyond this the ship has a royal cabin aft, peaked in a slanting roof off which flies the ensign of the Barbary Pirates. Numerous oars in the water would have been manned by forced labor and free-will sailors alike. A large Northern European warship is coming about in the distance.
In the beautifully yet busy composition, Storck's acute observation has the details such as the nationalities of the men present nailed down: Dutch gentlemen in cape and hose, a Spaniard discussing their affairs, local stevedores at work and rest, with possibly North African merchants waiting first choice of cargoes. Beyond, an Arabic-influenced naval fort dominates the architecture, while the elevation between the round-turret battlement and the Rock of Gibraltar shows a more humble Christian church with the pathway next to the Cross in the shade. The painting’s conception is based on real facts, all blended in the studio by the inner eye and precise hand of one of marine art’s Second Generation masters.
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