Very Early 18th Century Dutch Woodblock Engraving of the Northern Whale Fishery, circa 1720, a hand colored engraving illustrating the Dutch whaling fleet in a northern embayment with many boats lowered, a large right whale in the center and the flukes showing of another whale sounding, two polar bears in the foreground, and men landed on ice floes among the ships; the title across the bottom is written in Latin and French and translates as "Navigating in the Ice, and Searching for Baleine (Right) Whales."
The Dutch and British lead the Northern Whale Fishery starting in about 1610, and the Dutch soon dominated the field. The Dutch were also the first to make detailed prints illustrating whaling (although the earliest ones were rather fanciful and probably bore little resemblance to the actual hunt). The preferred grounds in the early days were the sheltered embayments around Jan Mayen Island and Spitsbergen, as seen in our woodcut. After 1630 the fleet started moving westward to Greenland, and by 1719 had passed into the Davis Strait and begun exploring the Canadian Arctic.
This engraving is most likely after an original painting by Sieuwert van der Meulen, engraved by Adolf van der Laan, and published by Petrus Schenk circa 1720; van der Meulen and van der Laan created a heroic oversized panorama comprised of 16 separate views, considered the greatest of all of the 17th and 18th century whaling prints. They were copied and published repeatedly, and were used for a series of vue d'optique that appeared three dimensional when viewed through a special prismatic lens.
This is one of the earliest and largest whaling woodcuts one would ever find. It has crisp detail and is in excellent condition, with only a few wrinkles and two short tears in the margin. It is matted and mounted in a contemporary bird's eye maple frame.
The plate measures: 12-3/4 in H x 17 in W
The frame measures: 20-3/4 in H x 25-1/8 in W