The early pictures by Jan Porcellis show a clear debt to Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom, the great pioneer of marine painting, who may have been his teacher.
This painting of two Dutch four-master is a particularly interesting historical document. To the best of our knowledge the Dutch only ever built three four-masters: the Neptunus, which sailed on the Cadiz expedition of 1596 and sank the following year, and the Hollantsche Tuyn and the Rode Leeuw of the Amsterdam and Rotterdam Admiralties respectively, both of which were built in 1598. Further support for this theory comes from the fact that in 1599 both of them were sent on Pieter van der Does’s punitive expedition against the Spanish. In May 1599 a Dutch fleet of 73 sail put to sea and set course for Corunna with orders to inflict as much damage on Spain as possible, and to prey on Spanish merchantmen, which often carries rich cargoes. On this expedition the Hollantsche Tuyn, described by contemporary accounts as ‘very fine and mighty’, flew the flag of the admiral Pieter van der Does.