Early steamship in the swell, c. 1850
A steamship fights its way through choppy seas. The waves are harbingers of the approaching storm, which is heralded by the heavily darkened sky on the right half of the picture. The direction of the wind can be seen in the smoke from the chimney, which indicates that the worst is yet to come for those on board. They are not below deck, but exposed to the weather. The mood of the painting is strongly contrasted by the peaceful, golden evening sun on the left. It is a particularly high-quality example of romantic marine painting, expressing the nothingness of man in relation to nature.
When this painting was donated to the museum, it was considered a work by an unknown painter. The atmospheric quality and skilful brushwork, as well as the leaf-gilt frame, have led to the hope that a well-known name must be behind this work. The opening of the sealed reverse revealed the famous French marine painter Théodore Gudin as the creator of the work. This was confirmed by finding his signature, which is, however, difficult to read. The painting was trimmed on the right side, which explains the square format, unusual for Gudin, and the clumsy looking composition (the ship is neither placed in the centre of the picture nor in the popular rule of thirds). Presumably, the painting was meant to fit into the frame. Unfortunately, this resulted in the loss of a part of the painting that once provided additional drama to the scene by making the sky appear dark and threatening over a larger area.