The Antwerp harbour today looks nothing like it did in the sixteenth century, when the city was a commercial powerhouse. Little to nothing of what's depicted still stands today; luckily, the anonymous artist has left us a memento.
The present work may be considered an important historical document of great topographical value, as it depicts the Antwerp harbour and the river Scheldt ca. 1600. Although the city was one of the most important trading centers in the world in the sixteenth century, with a very active harbour, there were as yet no quays to speak of. Before the first straightening of the river in 1803, ordered by Napoleon, the waterside was made up of flows (vlieten); many houses and churches (now demolished) still stood by the river. This drawing shows the hustle and bustle of merchants and traders in the day, with smaller and largers boats coming and going.
Although the author of the present work is unknown, it must have been an artist from the circle of the Antwerp landscape painter Joos de Momper II (Antwerp 1564 - 1635), whose stylistic influence can readily be felt in the present sheet. The watermark in the paper would indicate that the work was executed ca. 1600.