The site about 20km north-west of Amsterdam had attracted great attention – not just as a public curiosity (for some these beached whales were a portent of God’s wrath), but also for scientific interest – as the artist expertly depicted in the scene.
In fact, at least 40 whales are known to have become stranded on the coast of the Netherlands between 1521 and 1700, and other artists who drew on the subject included Hendrick Goltzius and Willem Buytewech.
Saenredam’s detailed view shows Ernst Casimir, the Count of Nassau-Dietz, in front of the whale holding a handkerchief over his nose (the dead whale did not have a pleasant smell). The artist clearly tried to make the scene as accurate as possible and provided a Latin inscription at the top to describe the scene in great detail, including the animal’s dimensions.
Copies of the print are not available very often. The previous high recorded at auction came at Bassenge in Berlin when a copy fetched €12,000 (£10,342) back in November 2011.
That was until another appeared at John Nicholson’s (25% buyer’s premium) in Surrey on November 24. The 16in x 2ft (41 x 61cm) print came from a private source and was estimated £1000-2000. After strong competition, it was knocked down at £12,000, eclipsing the 2011 price.
Elsewhere at the sale, a trademark landscape of the Highlands by Alfred de Breanski Senior (1852-1928) with provenance to the gallery Frost and Reed was offered with a £20,000-30,000 estimate.
The Grampians, a 3ft x 4ft 3in (91cm x 1.3m) oil on canvas, depicted a serene view of cattle standing in the tranquil waters of a loch as dusk begins to fall. It sold at £26,000.