Ship models may never have the emotional or imaginative power of a seascape painting by Ivan Aivazovsky. Even so, they can be a delight to look at. Dutch models from the 19th and 18th centuries are so well crafted that they bring to life real ships and boats that have long passed into oblivion. They are living specimens of Dutch maritime history, making us imagine what it was like to sail on these Dutch-made vessels and hear the sound of the sea and seagulls.

The following is a small sampling of what the Dutch have achieved in the art of modelling. Click on the captions for the technical details (in some cases, historical notes are also available). For more Dutch models, visit the Rijksmuseum website.

Model of a Koff, anonymous, 1854
Photo courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

This model represents a koff that traded between the Scandinavian countries and Russia. The Dutch are credited with having developed this historical type of vessel in the late 17th century. The koff is a testimony to the shipbuilding skills of the Dutch and their adventurous life as seaborne traders.

Model of a Polacre, anonymous, c. 1815–c. 1850
Photo courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

This model of a three-masted polacca (or polacre) exemplifies the high degree of technical skill and attention to detail required of a modeller. The Rijksmuseum catalogue entry suggests that it could represent the Daedalus, which was built in Germany and sailed on the London–Amsterdam and London–Bremen routes.

Model of a 46-Gun Frigate, anonymous, 1775–1800
Photo courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Dutch were once a great naval power. This enabled them to conquer and colonise foreign lands just like the Spanish, the Portuguese and the British. In a sense, this model of the two-deck warship Theresia Maria is a tribute to that glorious, bygone era.

Model of a Gaff-Rigged Gunboat, anonymous, 1835
Photo courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Dutch thirst for naval power helped fuel Dutch ingenuity in the design of various types of vessels. This charming model of a single-masted, flat-bottomed gunboat is noteworthy for its detailed craftsmanship. The catalogue entry says the deck comes complete with a capstan, a chimney for the galley, hatches, a deck light, a binnacle, loading gear for the guns, a mop and bucket, four oars, a round shot and two anchors.

Model of a Gentleman’s Yacht, anonymous, 1828
Photo courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The word “yacht” may not immediately call to mind the Netherlands (Holland), but it is Dutch in origin. The model shown above is a scaled-down replica of a yacht designed and built in 1828 by Folkert Nicolaas van Loon, a Dutch shipwright, for Baron Van Tuyll van Serooskerken van IJzerdoorn (data from the catalogue entry).  

Model of a Lifeboat, Adriaan Rosel, c. 1870–c. 1876
Photo courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The simplest boat model such as this 10-oared gunboat can be beautiful and elegant.

~Barista Uno

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