Willem van de Velde the Elder (1610/11 – 13 December 1693) was a
Dutch Golden Age The Dutch Golden Age ( nl, Gouden Eeuw ) was a period in the history of the Netherlands The History of the Netherlands is a history of seafaring people thriving on a lowland river delta A river delta is a landform A landform is a natura ...
seascape painter, who produced many precise drawings of ships and ink paintings of fleets, but later learned to use oil paints like his son.


Willem van de Velde, known as the Elder, a marine draughtsman and painter, was born in Leiden, the son of a Flemish skipper, Willem Willemsz. van de Velde, and is commonly said to have been bred to the sea. He married Judith Adriaens van Leeuwen in Leiden in 1631. His three known legitimate children were named Magdalena, born 1632; Willem, known as the Younger, also a marine painter, born 1633 in Leiden; and
AdriaenAdriaen is a Dutch form of Adrian. Notable people with the name include: *Adriaen Banckert (1615–1684), Dutch admiral *Adriaen Block (1567–1627), Dutch private trader and navigator *Adriaen Brouwer (1605–1638), Flemish genre painter *Adriaen d ...
, a landscape painter, baptized in 1636 in Amsterdam. Meanwhile the family lived Korte Koningstraat, close to the harbour, an area known as the
Lastage Lastage is a neighborhood in the Amsterdam-Centrum, Centrum borough of Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is located between the Geldersekade and Oudeschans, Amsterdam, Oudeschans canals, just east of old Middle Ages, medieval city. Today, the neighbourhoo ...

. His marriage was stormy, at least in its later years. David Cordingly relates that Willem the Elder fathered two children out of wedlock in 1653, one “by his maidservant, and the other by her friend. Nine years later the Elder and his wife went through a legal separation, ‘on account of legal disputes and the most violent quarrels’. The immediate cause of the dispute was his affair with a married woman.” Michael S. Robinson noted that “on 17/27 July 1662, he and his wife agreed to part. A condition of the separation was that the Elder could recover from his son Adriaen ‘two royal gifts’, presumably gifts from
Charles II
Charles II
for work done in England.” Cordingly’s account further relates that the dispute was still continuing after another ten years, since “in the autumn of 1672 Judith complained to the woman’s husband.” Robinson adds that by 1674 the couple “must have been reconciled”, for at a chance meeting with Pieter Blaeu in Amsterdam in July the Elder explained that he was only visiting for a few days “in order to fetch his wife”. His son, Adriaen, had died in Amsterdam early 1672, and Willem the Elder was also fetching his grandson, similarly named Adriaen, who was then aged two. After his move to England, the exact date of which is uncertain, but reportedly at the end of 1672 or beginning of 1673, he is said to have lived with his family in East Lane, Greenwich and to have used the
Queen's House Queen's House is a former royal residence built between 1616 and 1635 in Greenwich Greenwich ( , , , or ) is a town in South London, south-east London, England, centred east-southeast of Charing Cross and located in the Historic county of ...
, now part of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, as a studio. Following the accession of
William III
William III
Mary II Mary II (30 April 166228 December 1694) was Queen of England, Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a G ...

Mary II
as King and Queen of England, it appears that this facility was no longer provided, and by 1691 he was living in Sackville Street, now close to Piccadilly Circus. He died in London, and was buried in
St James's Church, Piccadilly St JamesSaint James or St. James may refer to: People Saints *James, brother of Jesus (died 62 or 69), also known as James the Just *James the Great (died 44), Apostle, also known as James, son of Zebedee, or Saint James the Greater **Saint Ja ...
, at the south end of the street. A memorial to him and his son lies with in the church.

Professional career

He was the official artist of the Dutch fleet for a period, being present at the
Four Days Battle The Four Days' Battle, also known as the Four Days' Fight in some English sources and as Vierdaagse Zeeslag in Dutch, was a naval battle Naval warfare is human combat in and on the sea, the ocean, or any other battlespace involving a major ...
, 1–4 June 1666, and the
St James's Day Battle St James' Day Battle (also known as St James' Day Fight, the Battle of the North Foreland North Foreland is a chalk headland on the Kent Kent is a Counties of England, county in South East England and one of the home counties. It borde ...
, 25 July 1666, to make sketches. In his work on the biographies of artists,
Arnold Houbraken Arnold Houbraken (28 March 1660 – 14 October 1719) was a Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish' ...

Arnold Houbraken
Gerard BrandtImage:Gerard Brandt.JPG, 200px, Gerard Brandt in 1683. Gerard Brandt (25 July 1626, Amsterdam – 12 October 1685, Amsterdam) was a Dutch preacher, playwright, poet, church historian, biographer and naval historian. A well-known writer in his ow ...
's biography of Admiral
Michiel de Ruyter Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter (; 24 March 1607 – 29 April 1676) was a Dutch admiral Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navy, navies, and in many navies is the highest rank. In the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth nat ...

Michiel de Ruyter