CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich embarks on conservation research project of its collection of Van de Velde drawings

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has recently embarked on a two-year grant funded conservation research project of its collection of Van de Velde drawings. We would like to share and compare our findings with other professionals and institutions with an interest in these artists and the materials and techniques of Marine Draftsmanship of the period.

The Museum holds a large collection of drawings (over 1,400) by Willem van de Velde the Elder and the Younger. The collection was built up through acquisitions from major collections and shows an unrivalled balance between the historical and the artistic in the marine draughtsmen’ output. We hope that the technical study of our rich and vast collection of van de Velde drawings will not only shed further light on the purpose of drawing in relationship to the artists’ paintings, but will also contribute to a wider understanding of seventeenth century art and draftsmanship.

The conservation research project includes a detailed condition survey of the entire collection as well as technical examination and research into the artists’ materials and techniques. We are exploring the van de Velde studio practices including the use of offsetting/ counter-proofing as a transfer technique to copy a preliminary graphite drawing onto a new sheet of paper and work it up into a finished drawing.

Additionally, we are also documenting the wide array of high quality seventeenth century watermarked papers, which were joined before and during the making of the drawings to create larger compositions. As is often the case with master drawings, these complex works of art combine papers and materials used by the artists themselves with later additions, backings and collector’s stamps. These additions provide interesting information on the changes in provenance, value and the use of these drawings up until the present day. The conservation treatment of up to 300 drawings will focus on how to deal with common degradation issues in van de Velde drawings, such as foxing and damaging mounting methods, whilst preserving their historical evidence and visual integrity.

We welcome contributions, comments and questions from individuals or institutions with an insight into the work of the van de Velde’s, whether from on conservation, art-historical, or historical level.

To search the collection, visit:


Clara de la Pena McTigue,

Pavlos Kapetanakis,