Oil on panel: 68,5 x 103 cm;
signed and dated ‘A. v. Neer 1641’ (lower right on a post)
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Previously this work was titled ‘Elburg’. Recent research has shown that this location is not viable. (Laurens Schoemaker, RKD, 2013).
Stechow notes that this maginificent work by Art van der Neer marks an important change in Dutch landscape painting and in Van der Neer’s Oeuvre (p.92). It opens ‘a decisive chapter in the history of colour (…) as van der Neer, whose earliest works are still a complete mystery to us, left behind the realm of grey-brown(-green) tonality, to which he had adhered through the late thirties ( …) down to about 1641 (fig 205), and began to concentrate on problems of a new luminosity’. After this work, he found his ideal subjects not only in landscapes illuminated by the setting, sun, the moon or flames but also in winter scenes with snow.
As in works by Jan van Goyen and Salomon van Ruisdael, the present painting also allows the sky to occupy a large part of the painting, which was very unusual for Van der Neer. Stechow mentions that this painting is unusual also for the early 1640s because of the restless see, dramatic clouds and buildings of a more imaginary type, and the whole mood quite different from the rather placid one of Van Goyen and his followers: ‘Jacob van Ruisdael does not seem too far away’ (Stechow pp.103-4). Apparently, the artist was experimenting on a combination of different and natural elements in this specific painting.
The staffage is doubtlessly authentic, as thorough technical research has pointed out. The extra staffage mentioned by Hofstede de Groot and visible in old illustrations, only consisted of some cows. They were removed in the early 1960’s when assumed to be later.
Identification of the city as Elburg is not viable; compare also the drawing by Adam Frans van der Meulen in Paris, Gobelin National 95, Armoire 78. Cf. the copy in sale Amsterdam, Paul Brandt, 18 May 1971, lot 22 (‘S. de Vlieger of omgeving’ with the later added staffage and also with the additional horseman in the foreground of the present painting) (W. Schulz, op. cit).