Dutch Golden Age works are rich with allegory and the vessel struggling against a wild sea brings allusions of uncertainty and peril. This could often refer to the dangers facing the individual or even the state itself. Particularly, that the optimism and supremacy of the newly formed Dutch Republic could be vanquished by external forces.
The true attribution of this work remains unclear. The initials ‘A.V.V.’ have been noted as being on the canvas, suggesting van de Velde, but these are now illegible. Jacob van Ruisdael, Pieter Mulier and Jan Porcellis have also been proposed as the artist.