Bonaventura Peeters the Elder

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Bonaventura Peeters (I) or Bonaventura Peeters the Elder (23 July 1614 – 25 July 1652) was a Flemish painter, draughtsman and etcher and one of the leading marine artists in the Low Countries in the first half of the 17th century.[1] [2]


Seascape with Sailors Sheltering from a Rainstorm

Peeters was born in Antwerp. He was a brother of the seascape painters Jan the Elder, Gillis the Elder, and Catharina Peeters.[3] Nothing is known about his early training although it is possible that Andries van Eertvelt, a specialist of stormy sea paintings, was his master. Bonaventura became a master in Antwerp's Guild of Saint Luke in 1634.

Initially he shared a studio in Antwerp with his older brother Gillis but moved from 1641 to Hoboken (Antwerp) where he worked in a studio with his pupils Catharina and Jan Peeters (I).[2][4] He was the teacher of his siblings Catharina and Jan Peeters (I).[2]

Peeters never married and died in Hoboken, aged 38 after suffering from ill health the last years of his life.[5]


Bonaventura's marine paintings comprise the whole range of battle scenes, storms, shipwrecks, views of ships in rivers and harbours, night scenes etc. His earliest marine paintings are panoramic views. His intimate and accurate knowledge of ships may hint at an early life spent at sea. He paid particular attention to the detailed depiction of clouds and waves.[5]

His earlier works show a similarity to the tonal phase of Dutch landscape painting. Later paintings reflect the stronger colours of Italianate classicism.[1] This shift follows the general change in artistic style at the time.[4] Dramatic shipwrecks with dark billowy clouds form a significant part of his oeuvre, as do serene ports and "portraits" of ships.[1][4][6]

A port in the Orient

Many of Peeters' paintings depict actual locations along the North Sea and the river Scheldt and these subjects form the bulk of his artistic production. He may have even travelled along the coast of Scandinavia as is shown by his views of the port of Archangel in Northern Russia one of which offers a scene of reindeers or elks pulling sledges. His other views of Scandinavian ports and scenes support the view that he may have travelled there.[5]

His many views of far-away Mediterranean and Middle Eastern ports reflect a growing taste for the exotic and are probably completely imaginary or derived from prints, including those by his younger brother Jan who had travelled in Southern Europe.[1][4][5] This tradition developed simultaneously in Flemish Baroque painting and in Dutch Golden Age painting, with many artists, including Peeters, working in both Antwerp and in the Dutch Republic.[1] For his views of Brazil Bonaventura may have relied on descriptions or depictions by his brother Gillis, who had travelled to South America.[5]

Icebear Hunt on the Coast of Norway

Bonaventura Peeters is known also for his drawings and engravings with maritime subjects. One of them entitled Ships in a storm (Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp) has a poem by him on its back in which he compares the dangers at sea with the dangers that man has to face over a lifetime.[5]

Bonaventura collaborated with other family members and artists in Antwerp. For instance, he collaborated with his brother Gillis on a painting of the Battle of Kallo. As he was a gifted staffage painter he was asked by other painters to paint the figures in their compositions. His collaboration with father and son Pieter Neeffs the Elder and the Younger, painters of church interiors, is documented in the signed examples in the National Gallery in London and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e Hans Vlieghe (1998). Flemish Art and Architecture, 1585-1700. Pelican History of Art. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07038-1
  2. ^ a b c Bonaventura Peeters (I) at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
  3. ^ Catharina Peeters at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
  4. ^ a b c d Margarita Russell. "Peeters, Bonaventura, I." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 18 Oct. 2014
  5. ^ a b c d e f g About Bonaventura Peeters I at Jean Moust
  6. ^ Bonaventuur Peeters biography in: Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 1718 (Dutch)