Jan van Goyen

Leiden 1596 - 1656 The Hague

A View of the Valkhof at Nijmegen

Signed on the ferry boat: VGOYEN 1643
On panel, 25¼ x 40⅛ ins. (64 x 102 cm)


Sold to a private collector in the UK

Ahlgren collection, 1804
Professor L. Masreliez
Baron Ed. Cederström
Anon. sale, Christie’s, London, 10 July 1886, lot 258 (withdrawn)
Sale, Baron Rudolf Cederström, Bukowski, Stockholm, 2 May 1888, no. 17
Olof Wijk, Göteborg, 1932
Herman Rasch, Stockholm, 1938
With S. Nystad, The Hague, 1956
Jhr. Mr J. H. Loudon, Aerdenhout, The Netherlands
Thence by descent to the present owner
Private collection, Great Britain, until 2015


Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, A catalogue raisonné, etc., vol. VIII, p. 54, no. 176
Hans Volhard, Die Grundtypen der Landschaftsbilder Jan van Goyen und ihre Entwicklung (Dissertation), Halle, 1927, pp. 128 & 183
Olof Granberg,  Les Collections privées de la Suède, Stockholm, 1886, no. 258
Olof Granberg, Inventaire général des trésors d’art en Suède, 3 vols, Stockholm, 1911/13, vol. I, no. 150 (illustrated)
Vier Generaties Nystad, 1862-1962, The Hague (illustrated)
Anna Dobrzycka, Jan van Goyen, Posen, 1966, no. 118
Hans-Ulrich Beck, Jan van Goyen 1596-1656, vol. II, Doornspijk 1987, p. 172, no. 353 (illustrated)


Exhibition of Old Master Paintings, Stockholm, 1884, no. 59
Vier Generaties Nystad, 1862-1962, The Hague, 1962


This painting once formed one of a pair with A View of Rhenen, H.U. Beck, no. G380.


During the 1640s, views of towns with monumental architecture became one of van Goyen’s favourite subjects.  He depicted the city of Nijmegen repeatedly between 1633 and 1654 and some thirty paintings of this subject are known. This view is one of the finest examples and has come down to us in an unusually pristine condition. Painted in 1643, it shows the city from the north-west, rising majestically on the banks of the River Waal.  The skyline is dominated by the ancient castle and Imperial Palace, or Valkhof, which overlooks the bastion of the Stratemakerstower, the Veerpoort, and the clusters of old houses situated on the waterfront below.  A ferry, laden with passengers and a coach and four, has just cast off from the left bank and is making its way slowly across the broad expanse of water: a number of other small river-craft ply the placid waters, or are moored on the far bank, their crews busily at work. 

Painted at the height of van Goyen’s so-called “tonal” period, the picture is extremely restrained in colour, most of the scene being rendered in hues of delicate browns and greys, with patches of brighter blue sky breaking through the rapidly dispersing cloud-cover.  A pearly light steals over the landscape from the east, evoking a poetic vision of early morning.  The composition is similarly characteristic of the early 1640s, with its diagonal wedge of land on the right, and the receding river on the left emphasising the recession towards the horizon.  Van Goyen’s fluent painting manner, with its use of translucent paints and “wet-in-wet” technique, is seen here to splendid effect.

Throughout his career van Goyen travelled widely in the Dutch Republic, making numerous chalk sketches directly from nature, often from the floating platform of a small boat.  These provided him with a huge repertoire of motifs which he referred to later when working up finished compositions in his studio.  A sketch, dating from the early 1630s and drawn “naer het leven” (from life), survives of Nijmegen[i], which would appear to be the prototype for many of his subsequent depictions, including the present work.  Van Goyen was, however, no slave to topographical accuracy and, although he represented the overall features of the town correctly, he did not hesitate to take artistic liberties with the details when it suited him. 

The appeal of Nijmegen stemmed not only from its picturesque skyline but also from its historical and patriotic associations.  The capital of the province of Gelderland, situated near the German border, Nijmegen was one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands.  Originally the site of a Batavian village, the Romans established a fort there during Caesar’s Gallic wars, which was later destroyed in the Batavian Uprising of 69 A.D.  In the eight century, Charlemagne constructed the Valkhof, the town’s main citadel, making it a major stronghold in the region.  The building subsequently suffered at the hands of  the Vikings, was rebuilt by Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa and then finally destroyed by Napoleon’s troops.  In the seventeenth century, Nijmegen took on a special significance for the Dutch in the context of their long struggle for independence against Spain.  Now, Dutch writers and politicians, seeking to legitimise their new country and establish a national identity, looked to their early history and found parallels in their own situation and the revolt of the ancient Batavians, their early forefathers, against their Roman overlords.  They glorified the heroic Batavian leader, Claudius Civilis, and hailed Nijmegen, his seat of power, as the ‘mother-city’ and ‘capital of the world north of the Alps’.  Thus, Nijmegen became linked in the popular imagination with Holland’s first capital and the locus of the nation’s ancient struggle for freedom.  Van Goyen was not the only artist to evoke the glories of Holland’s patriotic past with his views of Nijmegen: numerous other artists sketched or painted the city, most notably Salomon van Ruysdael and Aelbert Cuyp. 


Born in Leiden in 1596, Jan Josefsz. van Goyen was the son of a shoemaker.  The Leiden historian J. J. Orlers records that he studied successively with five teachers and travelled in France from 1615-16 before returning to Haarlem, where he became a pupil of Esaias van de Velde.  He married Annetje Willemsdr. van Raelst at Leiden in 1618 and is recorded there throughout the 1620s.  The artist probably moved to The Hague in 1632 and became a citizen of the city two years later.  We know that van Goyen became acquainted with the marine painter, Jan Porcellis, by 1629, as he is recorded selling him a house in that year. Sometime in 1634, he was painting at the house of Isaack van Ruisdael, the brother of Salomon.  During the “tulipomania” of 1636-7, van Goyen speculated in tulip bulbs and suffered heavy losses.  He was named hoofdman of The Hague Guild in 1638 and 1640. In 1649, his two daughters were both married: Maria to the still life painter Jacques de Claeuw, and Margarethe to Jan Steen.  In 1651, van Goyen was commissioned to paint a panoramic view of The Hague for the city’s Town Hall for which he received the sum of 650 guilders.  He died in The Hague on 27 April 1656 and was buried in the Grote Kerk. 

[i]See: Hans-Ulrich Beck, ‘The Preliminary Drawing for Jan van Goyen’s Views of Nijmegen’, Master Drawing, vol. 34, 1996, pp. 192-194.