The Dutch rose to greatness from the sea. During the seventeenth century, they became leaders in marine travel, transport, and commerce as their huge cargo carriers and warships journeyed across oceans and their small vessels and fishing boats navigated inland and coastal waterways. Water was central to their economic and naval successes.

In a nation of sailors, it is no wonder that marine subjects became a favorite of seventeenth-century artists and collectors alike. The local Dutch market for such paintings was fueled by wealth from trade and the fact that, in 1610, one in ten Dutchmen was employed in seafaring.

The seascape genre dates from the 17th century with the work of Dutch painters and is characterized by a low horizon line. Ships and the everyday fishermen, traders and sailors are depicted with realistic detail. Many artists depicted the open seas. For example, Willem van de Velde the Younger, who often sailed the seas himself, captured every imaginable vessel, from fishing boats and major transport ships to the great warships of the Dutch naval fleet, formulating his compositions with extraordinary accuracy and attention to detail. The Dutch Golden Age also introduced atmospheric light effects and various weather conditions to bring life and drama to painted scenes.