Solebay Tapestries

In 2020, the National Maritime Museum made a spectacular purchase of two rare tapestries designed by Willem van de Velde the Elder (1611-1693). This was the largest purchase in the history of the museum. The tapestries are now on display.

The tapestries depict two scenes from the battle that took place off the east coast of England, near Solebay in Suffolk, on 7 June 1672. The naval engagement between the Dutch and joint English-French fleet was the opening battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674). The Dutch fleet of over a 100 warships and 20,000 crew members was commanded by Lieutenant Admiral Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter. On the day of the battle Van de Velde the Elder was present and, as an embedded war correspondent, captured the unfolding events at sea in several sketches onboard a Dutch sailing boat. He later made more elaborate drawings of the battle in the comfort of his own studio. Although the outcome of the naval battle remained undecided, it was celebrated as a victory on both sides.

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