The Dutch Fleet Appearing at Dawn
Tapestry from a series depicting the Battle of Solebay, May 28, 1672
After Willem van de Velde I, Dutch, 1611 - 1693. Manufactured by Thomas Poyntz, and Mortlake Tapestry Manufactory, London, 1619 - 1649.
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This tapestry shows the the Battle of Solebay, which was the opening battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-74). Pictured is the mostly anchored English and French fleet early on the morning of June 7, 1672, just after the alarm was raised at the surprise approach of the Dutch. Three ships from the English and French fleet are off to the right signaling the approach of the enemy by firing guns and flying their sails.
In the middle distance amongst the anchored allied ships is the Saint Philippe, which carries Admiral d’Estrées, the commander of the French squadron. Just beyond that is the Duke of York, later James II, in his flagship the Royal Prince, which was destroyed by fire during the battle. Both sides suffered the losses of their admirals: Edward Montagu and the Earl of Sandwich for the English and French, and William Joseph baron van Ghent for the Dutch.
This tapestry was woven to a design by William Van de Velde the Elder, who was present at the battle and made drawings from the Dutch side in his galliot, which is a type of ship with both masts and oars. The Dutch Fleet Appearing at Dawn is part of the third set of tapestries depicting the Battle of Solebay.
The Dutch Fleet Appearing at Dawn was commissioned by James II as one of a set of five tapestries depicting the Battle of Solebay for George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth (c.1647-1691), who was a personal friend of James II and served as captain of the Fairfax during the battle of Solebay. Before the king could receive them, however, he was deposed due to the Revolution of 1688, which was the invasion of England by William of Orange with a Dutch fleet and army. Also called the Glorious Revolution, the invasion resulted in the overthrow of King James II and ascension of William to the throne together with his wife Mary II of England.
Also in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection are the third and fifth panels in the Solebay series, The Burning of the Royal James (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1942-89-2) and Ships Engaged in Action (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1942-89-3); the first two panels in the series display the signature of Thomas Poyntz and bear the coat of arms of Lord Dartmouth; all three panels bear the coat of arms of the King of England.