This large compositional drawing shows Dutch warships sailing in a light breeze, with others at anchor behind. The vessels can be identified by their high masts and horizontally-striped flags. At that time the Netherlands depended heavily on its navy to maintain independence against French and English expansionism, not to mention the claim of the Spanish crown, providing the younger van de Velde with both topical and pictorial subject matter. Indeed, it was the approach of French forces that caused the Van de Velde studio to go into exile in 1670. Of his many drawings of warships at sea, few reached this degree of gracefulness and calm beauty.The artist has shown with masterly effect the contrast between ships in movement and those at rest. His ability to capture accurately both the atmospheric and scientific laws of perspective was always in advance of his father, Willem van de Velde the Elder (1611-1693), under whom he trained. He had the ability to render highly complex subjects with a great economy; in this drawing he has employed just a few lines and touches of wash to delineate the forms of the ships and describe their movement.