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The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

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The Storm on the Sea of Galilee
ArtistRembrandt van Rijn
MediumOil canvas
MovementDutch Golden Age painting
Dimensions160 cm × 128 cm (63.00 in × 50.39 in)
LocationWhereabouts unknown since 1990

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee is a 1633 oil-on-canvas painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Rembrandt van Rijn. It is classified as a history painting and is among the largest and earliest of Rembrandt's works. It was purchased by Bernard Berenson for Isabella Stewart Gardner in 1869 and was displayed at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston before its theft in 1990; it remains missing. The painting depicts the biblical event in which Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, as is described in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark.[1] It is Rembrandt's only seascape.[2]

Storm op het Meer van Galilea Leven van Christus, print by Adriaen Collaert after a design by Maerten de Vos


The painting, in vertical format, shows a close-up view of Christ's disciples struggling frantically against the heavy storm to regain control of their fishing boat. A huge wave beats the bow and rips the sail. One of the disciples is seen vomiting over the side. Another one, looking directly at the viewer, is a self-portrait of the artist. Only Christ, depicted on the right, remains calm.[1]

The painting depicts the event described in Luke 8:22–25 in which the disciples in charge of the vessel were scared by the sudden storm and awoke a sleeping Jesus in their panic. Rembrandt's version is considered among the more accurate depictions of the event as described in the Bible.[3] The perspective is lowered, so that the sky occupies more space than the sea, but the boat, its crew and Christ remain the main focal point of the painting. The ship is similar to a hoeker, a North Sea fishing vessel. Rembrandt changed the hull to make it appear more asymmetrical, while the mast appears heavier than the classical square or triangular sail.[4] Although Dutch artists of the time often strived for accuracy in their portrayal of ships in seascapes German art historian Christian Tümpel noted Rembrandt's tendency to use earlier Bible illustrations as a basis for adapting props, such as the disciples' ship, to fit his own imagination.[4][5]

Rembrandt employed tenebrism (a style of dramatic illustration with stark contrasts of light and dark), as a way to emphasize visually Christ’s miracle in calming the sea.[6] Light emanates from the upper left of the painting, and a glimpse of the blue sky may be seen through the storm. As the scene moves toward the right, the boat and the crew are thrown back into shadow.

The close-up treatment of the subject and the painting's overall composition are evocative of a Adriaen Collaert print after a design by the Flemish artist Maerten de Vos. The print was included in the 12-part Vita, passio et Resvrrectio Iesv Christ work published by Jan and Raphael Sadeler in Antwerp in 1583. Rembrandt's painting follows the portrait format of Collaert's print and also depicts the boat in a forward tilting position. As with the print, most of the space is consumed by the main motif of the disciples on the boat struggling against the elements.[7]


Classified as a history painting,[4] The Storm on the Sea of Galilee is an oil-on-canvas painting and is about 160 x 128 cm in size. It was Rembrandt's earliest painting, completed when he was 29 years old, and it is the largest known historical work that he completed. The creation of The Storm on the Sea of Galilee occurred during the time that he had relocated from Amsterdam to Leiden. It is unknown if it was painted for a commission, as no such record has survived.[4] Rembrandt had drawn a sketch in the same year titled Christ Walking on the Waves that depicts the event when Christ walked on the Sea of Galilee.[4] This sketch was based on a passage in Matthew 14:22-33 in which Christ walks on water toward his disciples in a fishing boat, and Peter attempts to walk toward Jesus but instead sinks and must be rescued.[8]

Dutch seascape[edit]

Dutch seascapes became popular in the early 17th century and were largely considered a response to the manner in which painting style had been changing. Vertical surfaces, cartographic perspective and religious themes became less common, and imaginary depth, lower horizons and a more realistic depiction of nature became more prevalent.[9] Visual artist Allan Sekula attributes this shift to four changes within Dutch society: an increase in trade, wars fought at sea, techniques such as cartography and navigation that had become part of Dutch culture and the incorporation of political and maritime motifs in art.[9]

The Netherlands began to emerge as a new world power after the end of the Eighty Years' War with Spain. Naval trade would become an important new aspect of Dutch life, and the formations of the Dutch West India Company and the Dutch East India Company contributed to the popularity of seascapes.[10] These paintings were classified as naval battles, ship portraiture or seascape scenes. It was common for religious elements to be integrated into seascapes, as Rembrandt had done with The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.[10]

Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom is credited with popularizing seascapes within the Netherlands; the trend spread throughout Europe and to America in the late 18th and 19th centuries.[11]


In 1898, Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased The Storm on the Sea of Galilee for $6,000 (equivalent to $219,744 in 2023) from the art dealers Asher Wertheimer and Colnaghi & Co., who had received it from Henry Francis Pelham-Clinton-Hope earlier in the year. The first owner listed on the provenance is Tymen Jacobsz Hinloopen,[1] a leader of the Dutch whaling company Noordsche Compagnie.[12] He purchased The Storm on the Sea of Galilee in 1644 when it was known as A Painting of St. Peter's Ship.[1]

The painting was not purchased directly by Gardner; the sale was handled by art historian and critic Bernard Berenson.[1] The date on which Gardner and Berenson first met is unknown, but they established a strong partnership through which Berenson helped Gardner purchase artwork such as The Rape of Europa in 1896.[13][3] Berenson was involved in the establishment of Gardner's public collection, and the two would write to each other frequently about the process.[3]

After Gardner purchased the painting, it was hung in the room Gardner called the Dutch Room.[1] The painting was added to a collection including a Rembrandt self-portrait as well as The Concert by Johannes Vermeer.[3]


On the morning of March 18, 1990, two thieves disguised as police officers entered the museum and stole The Storm on the Sea of Galilee and 12 other works[2] in the largest art theft in American history. The heist remains unsolved.[2][14] On March 18, 2013, the FBI announced that it knew who was responsible for the crime.[15][16] However, no arrests have been made to date and all 13 pieces of art remain missing. The investigation remains open.[17]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The painting is shown on the cover of the 1996 book Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein.
  • The painting is used as the cover art for The Struggle (2012), the third studio album by Tenth Avenue North.
  • In The Blacklist 2013 episode "Gina Zanetakos (No. 152)" (Season 1, Episode 6), Raymond Reddington has The Storm on the Sea of Galilee and is arranging its sale. A forgery is also seen in the 2017 episode "Greyson Blaise (No. 37)" (Season 5, Episode 2).
  • In Season 3 of Sneaky Pete (2019), the painting is featured in multiple episodes.
  • The Storm on the Sea of Galilee appears in Season 1, Episode 13 of Marvel's Iron Fist. It is displayed on the wall of Harold's penthouse.[18]
  • In 2019, artist Giovanni DeCunto painted interpretations of the 13 stolen works from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The paintings were displayed to the public between March 1 and March 17, 2019.[19]
  • In the Season 5 finale of Cobra Kai, the painting is seen hanging in the living room of billionaire antagonist Terry Silver. By the end of the episode, the painting is stolen by Mike Barnes as compensation for the loss of his furniture store.
  • In episode 2 of the first season of AMC's Interview with the Vampire, the painting is shown hanging on the dining room wall in the Dubai apartment of Louis de Pointe du Lac.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee 1633". Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. May 21, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Robert M. Poole (July 2005). "Ripped from the Walls (and the Headlines)". Smithsonian. Archived from the original on 2013-06-16.
  3. ^ a b c d Goldfarb, Hilliard T. (1995). The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: A Companion Guide and History. Yale University Press. p. 97. ISBN 0-300-06341-5.
  4. ^ a b c d e Walsh, John (1985). "Observations on Rembrandt's "Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee"". Notes in the History of Art. 5 (1): 44–52. doi:10.1086/sou.5.1.23202263. ISSN 0737-4453. S2CID 193125751.
  5. ^ Haitsma Mulier, E.O.G. (1994-01-01). "F. Grijzenhout, H. van Veen, De Gouden Eeuw in perspectief. Het beeld van de Nederlandse zeventiende-eeuwse schilderkunst in later tijd; D. Freedberg, J. de Vries, Art in history, history in art. Studies in seventeenth-century Dutch culture". BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review. 109 (1): 82–85. doi:10.18352/bmgn-lchr.3793. ISSN 2211-2898.
  6. ^ Tyler, Christopher (2010-02-04). Rogowitz, Bernice E.; Pappas, Thrasyvoulos N. (eds.). "Darkness and depth in early Renaissance painting". SPIE Proceedings. Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XV. 7527. SPIE: 75270V. Bibcode:2010SPIE.7527E..0VT. doi:10.1117/12.846851. S2CID 6454081.
  7. ^ G. Unverfehrt, Christus und die Jünger im Seesturm at Sammlungen der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (in German)
  8. ^ "Bible Gateway passage: Matthew 14:22-33 - New International Version". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2023-04-19.
  9. ^ a b Siegert, Bernhard (2014). "The Chorein of the Pirate: On the Origin of the Dutch Seascape". Grey Room. 57: 6–23. doi:10.1162/grey_a_00158. ISSN 1526-3819. S2CID 57564487.
  10. ^ a b Domin, Victor (2012). "Rough Seas -- Shipwrecks of the Romantic Era: The Evolution of the Dutch Tradition" – via academia.edu.
  11. ^ Bangs, Jeremy D.; Russell, M. (1985). "Visions of the Sea, Hendrick C. Vroom and the Origins of Dutch Marine Painting". Sixteenth Century Journal. 16 (3): 390. doi:10.2307/2540230. ISSN 0361-0160. JSTOR 2540230.
  12. ^ "Hinlopenstretet's history - The Cruise Handbook for Svalbard". cruise-handbook.npolar.no. Retrieved 2023-05-01.
  13. ^ Rump, Gerhard Charles; Samuels, Ernest (1981). "Bernard Berenson. The Making of a Connoisseur". Leonardo. 14 (1): 77. doi:10.2307/1574516. ISSN 0024-094X. JSTOR 1574516.
  14. ^ Guy Darst; Ulrich Boser (February 20, 2009). "Vanishing Point: As the World's Biggest Unsolved Art Theft Fades From View, a Fresh Look". The Wall Street Journal.
  15. ^ Matt Pearce (March 18, 2013). "FBI says it knows who pulled off unsolved 1990 Boston art heist". Los Angeles Times.
  16. ^ "The Gardner Museum Theft, Reward Offered for Return of Artwork". Federal Bureau of Investigation. March 18, 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Who Stole Rembrandt's Painting 'Storm on the Sea of Galilee'?". TheCollector. 2022-03-10. Retrieved 2023-04-01.
  18. ^ "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee painted by Rembrandt - Pop Culture Cross-References and Connections on @POPisms". POPisms.com. Retrieved 2023-04-20.
  19. ^ Peselman, Rina (2019). "Boston Artist Recreates Stolen Art From Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Giovanni DeCunto's '13' includes interpretations of masterpieces by Degas, Rembrandt, Manet stolen in infamous 1990 heist". PR Newswire. Newsire, New York. ProQuest 2176714447.

External links[edit]

Media related to Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee (Rembrandt) at Wikimedia Commons