Private Collection, UK
Anthonie van Borssom was highly productive as a draftsman who worked in the circle of Rembrandt. Only five of his paintings are dated, making it difficult to establish the chronology of his early development. He was an eclectic artist, painting primarily landscapes but also animal scenes, church interiors, still lifes and history paintings. His most successful works are of dune landscapes as well as the moonlit landscapes, one of which is kept at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Another painting is kept in Leipzig, Museum der Bildenden Künst.
Our painting presents a coastal scene at nighttime, infused with atmospheric drama. The dark, sensuous palette and lighting draws the viewer into this intriguing space. In the foreground, a figure stands in profile, adjusting the drooping net fence that runs along the water's edge. Nearby, a small boat is docked, loaded with various items and another figure, who rests with his back towards the viewer. A slight distance away is a sailboat, its sails reaching into the sky, arched in the breeze. Additional ships are scattered about the composition; their tall masts provide a counterbalance to the horizontal axis of the panel.
A group of figures stands in the boat, turned toward the moonlight. Above, the dark sky is strewn with great billowy clouds that part near the center of the picture, allowing the bright moon to peek through and cast light on dark landscape. Borssom gently accents the surfaces with a subtle brush, which permits the image to glow despite the primarily dark palette. Such soft smokiness achieved in our painting is characteristic of Borssom's nighttime scenes.