A highlight is Rembrandt van Rijn’s celebrated painting The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1633) - one of five loans coming to the city between now and 2021 from Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.
One intriguing possibility is that Rembrandt was in Hull for over a year towards the end of his career when he was fleeing bankruptcy in Amsterdam. Or so a note by diarist George Vertue in 1719 - also on display - suggests: “Rembrandt van Rijn was in England, li’d at Hull in Yorkshire”.
Parts of Hull are shown in their maritime heyday - a huge ship’s mast is carried over Savile Street, now a shopping street, and a keel sails down the river Hull by Stoneferry, then a rural idyll with windmills, now a busy industrial area.
Split between the Ferens and Maritime Museum, is also the new contemporary Offshore exhibition, curated by Invisible Dust, 35 works in all, including 10 new commissions.
Photographs taken in Scarborough by Magnum photographer Martin Parr sit alongside an eerie film about a real-life Kraken - a giant squid over 8m long caught off the Falklands, now a museum piece, gently decaying in formaldehyde.
A Grecian called Mr Theododis, the guardian of a cruise ship, wrecked off the island of Santorini, is the star of a piece by Saskia Olde Wolbers. His eclectic home video - Greeks dancing and breaking plates, runaway octupuses - is shown with a voice-over of his tales of the deep, and interiors dripping with oil the artist has created in her own studio.
Children are not forgotten: upstairs in the Court Room at the Maritime Museum is a huge ship with a pink funnel, great orange starfish and blobfish, which should spark their imagination.
The exhibition comes as part of the second season of Hull City of Culture - Roots and Routes.
Gemma Lloyd from Invisible Dust, said it explored people’s abiding fascination with the sea - and the many artistic responses to it.
She said: “We wanted to look at the difficulties, challenges and complexities, around how humans interact - and also abuse the sea. There’s is an environmental theme as well. We tried to encapsulate the incredibly varied responses to the sea.”
Rembrandt and Offshore can be seen from Saturday until August 28.