In the busy port of Vlissingen (Flushing) used by the Dutch East India Company in the 1600s, grand ships glide through placid waters. The cannon on a large yacht fires a salute announcing the arrival of a dignitary, who is carried ashore by the launch to the right. By the mid-1600s, the Dutch Republic had reached the height of its power as a global trading empire, and its domination of the seas found expression in the genre of marine painting. In 1649 Jan van de Cappelle introduced the "parade" picture, in which grand ships convene for a special occasion under dramatic cloudy skies.
In this parade picture, Van de Cappelle included many details, such as the ship's rigging, sails, and decorations and dolphins swimming through the calm water. He also mastered the atmospheric and optical effects seen in the treatment of reflections in the water and in the contrast between the lighter clouds that form at the horizon and the darker ones gathering high above the foreground.