Title   Schippe (Search for the image)
Translated title Sailor
Intro Text by dr D. Barnes, accompanying Bramer’s drawing of a sailor (`zeeman’)

Code of occupational group 98135
Description Two sailors walk along the sand away from boats beached up on the shore. The taller, older man holds a dufflebag under his left arm. He has a bag with knotted drawstrings in his left hand. With his right hand, he holds a small package or paper up towards his chest. Although walking towards the left, his head is turned to the right as though speaking to another (unseen) person. His companion is a younger man who carries a very heavy cloth- wrapped package, possibly bedding, on his right shoulder. He supports it with his right hand. With his left hand, he carries a small wooden or leather trunk by its handle. He tilts his head down to watch his footing. Across the harbor, buildings can be seen on the distant shore.

Dutch ships sailed the world's oceans, seas, and rivers bringing home goods and raw materials from foreign ports, transporting goods from one nation to another, and exporting Dutch products to her trading partners. The Dutch built an empire during the 17th century which rested firmly on mercantile trade, banking, and shipping. The growth of Dutch shipping was directly tied to the country's increasing prosperity in the 17th century.

Sailors were recruited for both long and short voyages. Some men were impressed into sea duty if arrested as barbary coast pirates or "rescued" as a result of Dutch naval skirmishes. Orphan boys were occasionally sent to sea as cabin boys on large merchant ships. Life at sea was dangerous in squalling storms, if disease ran through the crew, or if food and water supplies ran out before the ship could replenish at port. While fighting and gambling on shipboard were outlawed, incidents occurred and punishment by whip lashings was not uncommon. Men were paid fairly minimal wages, but often got a small share of the profits earned when a ship's cargo was sold. Sailors were not above smuggling items obtained abroad, stowing this contraband in their sea chests and bedding. Smuggled items could be sold for cash or bartered, used to pay off tavern debts in port, or given as gifts.

Dutch artists supplied their proud countrymen with many representations of sea-going fishing boats and fishermen, as well as those who fished the rivers; whaling boats and whalers working
the icy Arctic waters; huge East India merchant ships in harbor scenes; the Dutch fleet, with its military cannons, firing upon enemies; bustling drydocks where ships were built, launched, or repaired; and Dutch ships taking on cargo in Mediterranean ports-of-call.

Bramer's drawing of the sailors is certainly within the tradition of marines and river scenes, but his emphasis on the men coming ashore from a voyage carrying gear is something of a novelty.

Source Donna R. Barnes, Ed D, Street scenes, Leonard Bramer's drawings of seventeenth-century daily life (Hofstra Museum exhibition 1991). Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York.

Click here for the introductory essay on Bramer's drawings.

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