Miracle on the Beach of Gennesaret

ADAM WILLAERTS (1577-c.1699)

Miracle on the Beach of Gennesaret

17th century Netherlands

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The Colnaghi painting, which is documented in the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague as by Adam Willaerts (no. 38406), is a typical example of his work. Willaerts’ work makes use of a narrative, his use of colour is fluid, his costuming vibrant and overall he adopts a lively atmosphere, all qualities which evident are in our painting. The composition, vibrancy of colour and tone and meticulous attention to detail in our painting can be compared with that in two other works by Willaerts: The Embarkation of Frederick V of the Palatinate, King of Bohemia, in a idealised landscape with Prague Castle (Maritime Museum, Amsterdam) and A Dutch convoy of ships on a rocky coast (Private Collection, Holland).

Willaerts’ coastal scenes are filled with crowds of people and which usually tend towards some form of narrative, in this case religious. The Miracle on the Beach of Gennesaret is a scene taken from Matthew 14: 34-36, describing Jesus healing the sick. "When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed." The healing Jesus in this painting is a relatively unimposing focal point – he is seen standing on one of the fishing boats wearing a red cloak in the centre of the painting. Noticeable in the foreground is a group of three Africans, a fantastically costumed horseman, a burgundian dressed couple and behind them on the right, the pair of Magi. Willaerts has reconstructed this biblical narrative and placed it into a contemporary setting seen, for example, in the clothing of some of the figures in the foreground and in the background where one can see a contemporary Dutch war ship - another reminder of the period when the supremacy of the Dutch naval fleet was at its peak.

Adam Willaerts left Antwerp in 1600 where he secured his place as one of the most successful marine painters of his day. He also painted river and canal scenes, fishmarkets and processions. In 1611 he was one of the founding members of the Utrecht St. Luke’s Guild and held the position of senior member in 1620. Willaerts was a brilliant colourist who paid great attention to the topography of the coastline and sought to find more realisitic means to paint the coastal landscape. His two sons, Abraham and Isaac, continued in the tradition and manner of their father.
Dr. W. A. Luz, Berlin, circa 1958; Private collection, Luxembourg
Height 65.00 cm (25.59 inches)
Width 92.50 cm (36.42 inches)
Oil on panel
Signed lower right: A. W. f. On the framework is an old handwritten collectors' gummed label:
P & D Colnaghi & Co Ltd

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