Symbolism of Ships and the Sea in paintings

The sea mainly symbolizes your calm mind, fluctuating emotions and internal strength. Dreams related to sea give you deeper analysis of your life’s situations. Calm sea water in dream denotes your spiritual behavior and suggests you to stay calm in whatever situation you are in.
Turbulent stormy sea waves depict your inability to control the situation. The uncontrolled sea waves also denote your confused state of mind and your emotional disturbances. You need to calm down first so that you are able to calm down the situation. Until you find self-control on your emotions, the outside situations will be difficult to handle.To watch the sea from distance in a dream states that you are thinking about an intimate relation. You may seek your partner’s support for sexual pleasure. Floating on the sea indicates that you are in a peaceful situation and will enjoy these moments for now. Swimming or floating in sea is considered to be a good omen. It is also a sign of good fortune. Boats are a symbolic means of transport along a spiritual path. The anchor and boat became a important Christian symbol during the period of Roman persecution. John 21:6: “And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.”

The sea and ships have been depicted in art ranging from simple drawings of dhows on the walls of huts in Lamu to seascapes by Joseph Turner. The genre of marine art became especially important in the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, with works showing the Dutch Navy at the peak of its military prowess. Artists such as Jan Porcellis, Simon de Vlieger, Jan van Cappelle, Hendrick Dubbles, Willem van de Velde the Elder and his son, Ludolf Bakhuizen and Reinier Nooms created maritime paintings in a wide variety of styles. The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai created colour prints of the moods of the sea, including The Great Wave off Kanagawa showing the destructive force of the sea at the same time as its ever-changing beauty. The 19th century Romantic artist Ivan Aivazovsky created some 6,000 paintings, the majority of which depict the sea.

Jan van de Cappelle,
Shipping in a Calm at Flushing with a States General Yacht Firing a Salute, 1649

The role of the sea in culture has been important for centuries, as people experience the sea in contradictory ways: as powerful but serene, beautiful but dangerous. Human responses to the sea can be found in artforms including literature, art, poetry, film, theatre and classic music. The earliest art representing boats is 40,000 years old. Since then, artists in different countries and cultures have depicted the sea. Symbolically, the sea has been perceived as a hostile environment populated by fantastic creatures: the Leviathan of the Bible, Isonade in Japanese mythology, and the kraken of late Norse mythology. In the works of the psychiatrist Carl Jung, the sea symbolises the personal and the collective unconscious in dream interpretation.

The boat is a emblem of St. Ursula. She was often portrayed as helping sinners into her boat to save them from drowning in the seas depravity. The Barque (boat or ship) of St. Peter,  refers to Peter, the first pope, who was a fisherman before becoming an apostle of Jesus. Water represents the Holy Spirit and Everlasting Life. The ark of Noah, represents God’s faithful floating to safety through the great flood. The ship is a symbol of the church, with the cross as its mast.

Ludovico Einaudi – “Elegy for the Arctic” – Official Live (Greenpeace)