Ferdinand Bol: Portrait of Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter (1667)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter is the best and the most famous admiral in Dutch history . de Ruyter was the son of a beer porter and became a sailor at the age of 11. During he worked for the Dutch merchant fleet and steadily worked his way up. In 1640 he was given the command of a merchant ship turned into a man-of-war and fought against the Spanish. De Ruyter fought in almost every Dutch war from 1637 until his death in 1676. During his life, de Ruyter won 27 battles but his most famous victories were the Four Days' Battle (1–4 June 1666), the raid on the Medway (19 – 24 June 1667) and his naval victories during the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674). Much loved by his sailors and soldiers, his men gave his the nickname 'Bestevaêr' (Dutch for 'grandfather'). De Ruyter was mortally wounded at the Battle of Augusta, 22 April 1676. The French opponents of the Dutch during that battle, immediately ended their hostilities when they heard that De Ruyter had been mortally wounded and retreated. On his last journey home, the late Lieutenant-Admiral-General was saluted by cannon shots fired on the coasts of France by the direct orders of the French king Louis XIV. Already a hero during his life, there are several statues in the Netherlands of de Ruyter and most Dutch cities have a street named after him. In the Dutch Navy there are also several ships named after him. There are a large number of portraits of De Ruyter, Ferdinand Bol painted at least 5 for the five Dutch admiralties. This portrait was made after the victory at the Four Days' Battle (1–4 June 1666) and went to Middelburg. De Ruyter is shown as a Lieutenant-Admiral wearing the Order of Saint Michael, awarded to him by the King of France. The map on the left shows the coast of Holland with his place-of-birth, the island of Walcheren. On the right you can see the flagship of De Ruyter, 'De Zeven Provinciën' (or 'The 7 Provinces', named after the original seven provinces of the Netherlands). This painting was made in 1667.