Sale Amsterdam, Roos & Co, P.C. Haemacher, F.L. Berré, 30 November 1897, lot 96, to Roos (ii)
Collection Duchess von Bojano
Collection of His Excellence C.G. Nano
His sale, Berlin, Lepke, 3 April 1928, lot 200
Sale Paris, Drouot, 15 December 1980, lot 36
Solingen, Gallerie Müllenmeister
Germany, private collection, until 2014
W. Stechow, Salomon van Ruysdael: Eine Einführung in seine Kunst, Berlin 1938, pp. 68, 78-79, cat. nos 4, 96 (2nd edition, Berlin 1975, pp. 68, 82, cat. nos 4, 96)
Salomon was the son of the Mennonite cabinetmaker Jacob Jansz. de Goyer (c. 1560-1616) from Naarden. (iii) Shortly after his father’s death, Ruysdael and his brother Isack – the father of the famous landscape painter Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29-1682) – moved to Haarlem, where Salomon entered the Guild of St Luke in 1623 under the name Salomon de Gooyer. Shortly thereafter he adopted the name Ruysdael from the castle with that name in the Gooiland, which may once have been a family possession. His first dated picture is from 1626, soon followed by three winter scenes from 1627. While first adhering to the new, realistic landscape style of Esaias van de Velde (1587-1630), Salomon quickly elaborated his manner and together with Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) and Pieter de Molyn (1595-1661), created a distinctive landscape art depicting the environs of Haarlem, applying a restricted tonal range and modest subject matter. Sometime before 1627 Ruysdael married Maycke Willemsdr Buyse, also from a Mennonite family background. Their son Jacob (1629/30-1681) also became a painter. In the next three decades, Salomon established himself as a well-to-do Haarlem citizen and a prolific and successful painter who had several pupils, among them his son, his nephew Jacob van Ruysdael (1628/9-1682), and Cornelis Decker (c. 1620-1678). Mayke died in 1660, followed ten years later by her husband, who was buried in Haarlem’s St Bavokerk. Although several history paintings, and even some still lifes and batailles by his hand are known, Van Ruysdael is most of all known as one of the ‘classic’ masters of Dutch seventeenth- century landscape painting. His subject matter included seascapes, winter landscapes, dune landscapes, village views and a wide variety of river landscapes.
Under a grey-blue, at times almost lilac sky, which takes up a considerable part of the picture plane, a frozen canal, the colour of which echoes that of the sky, curves its way through the Dutch landscape. On the left bank a repoussoir is formed by a fenced windmill, a pictorial element that is remarkably enough rarely encountered so prominently in Van Ruysdael’s work. A small cottage can be glimpsed behind it. The other bank in the foreground, whose curve gently follows the panel’s oval contours, leads up to a dirt road and a little bridge on the right that is crossed by a farmer. Behind it the landscape, in which we see two figures and a distant haystack, takes on its well-known flatness. The oval curves, the windmill and the bridge provide an intimate setting for some casual, winter activities on the ice. Observed by a peasant girl at the foot of the windmill, three boys venture out on the ice. Two are skating, while a third propels himself forward on his ice sled. A young man appears to be climbing up onto the shore, possibly about to be ‘kluning’ (walking overland on ice skates) his way up and across the bridge, since the ice around the bridge – which seems a different colour – might not be trustworthy.
Until now it was presumed that after the three winter landscapes of 1627, Ruysdael had not returned to the theme until the early 1650s.(iv) The appearance of the present work extends the early winter landscape period by two years. Dated 1629, this painting must be his last effort in the winter genre for a long time. Although Wolfgang Stechow included the painting in his catalogue raisonné on Van Ruysdael, its dating was unknown, and the work was until now only scarcely recognised as a winter landscape. Stechow accidentally mentions the painting twice: once in his category ‘Winter Landscapes’ (cat. no. 4), taken from the description of a unillustrated Amsterdam auction catalogue of 1897 (‘Moulin à vent situé au bord d’une canal prise par la glace’); and again in his category ‘Oval formats’ (cat. no. 96), taken from a Berlin auction catalogue of 1928. In contrast to the Amsterdam catalogue, the Berlin catalogue did reproduce the image, but failed to mention the fact that the river was frozen (and apparently Stechow himself did not see it either).
Comparing the present work with the winter landscapes of 1627, it becomes clear what a stormy development was already taking place. The Winter Landscape in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, of a horizontal format, is a beautiful and well furnished, but somewhat impersonal and immature effort, the work of an aspiring but beginner artist who had not yet established his own niche.(v) The same sized Winter Landscape with a Boy on Skates Pushing a Sled, auctioned in London in 2011, offers a similar broad and elaborate view with plenty to look at, but likewise it seems all too neat.(vi) In contrast, the present work, although considerably smaller and less elaborate, offers a sense of ease and experiment not encountered in the 1627 works. One sees the under drawing in the windmill and the sail, the bold pentimento of a wooden bridge over the water, the sketchy figures and the swift scratches in the wet paint. Compositionally, the work also takes a different perspective. While the earlier pictures still apply a view from above, Van Ruysdael in the years around 1630 experiments with a low viewpoint. In clear artistic dialogue with Molijn and Van Goyen, Salomon’s works feature elegantly curved lines of roads or river shores that start in the lower region of the painting and reach a highpoint on the left or right side, before descending again. On top of the curve one or more figures are seen from below.(vii) The present work is the only hibernal example of that scheme.
i The ‘Ruyesdael’ spelling of the signature is found exclusively on little over a dozen paintings executed between 1627 and 1631 (or 1633). See Stechow 1975, cat. nos 224c (‘Ruiesdael’, 1627); 226, 227 (1628); 4/96 (present work), 179, 228a (1629); 83, 229 (1630); 180, 230, 232, 321 (1631); 137 (read as 1633); 251 (no date).
ii There can be no doubt as to whether the painting is indeed the work mentioned in the 1897 auction catalogue. Not only are the description and size perfectly fitting, but both a label and an inscription in black on the reverse of the panel give the number 4475, which is also found in a handwritten note in a copy of the catalogue, kept at the RKD (Lugt no. 55733). Stechow’s cat. nos. 4 and 96 therefore refer to the same painting.
iii Biography based on I. Van Thiel-Stroman, in: N. Köhler (ed.), Painting in Haarlem 1500-1850 : The collection of the Frans Hals Museum, Ghent 2006, pp. 289-293.
iv W. Stechow, Dutch Landscape Painting of the Seventeenth Century, New York 1966, p. 90; A. van Suchtelen, Holland Frozen in Time: the Dutch Winter Landscape in the Golden Age, exh. cat. The Hague, Mauritshuis 2001-2002, pp. 57, 124, cat. no. 25.
v Oil on panel, 34 x 58 cm., Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum. See The Hague 2001-2002, p. 57, fig. 45; Stechow 1975,cat. no. 1. See Stechow 1966.
vi Oil on panel, 34.5 x 60.5 cm., sale London, Sotheby’s, 7 July 2011, lot 175 (Stechow 1975, cat. no. 3). The third Winter Landscape (Stechow 1975, cat. no. 2), with the Instituut Collectie Nederland, Amsterdam, inv./cat.nr NK 3073, is a partial variation on the Sotheby’s work.
vii E.g. U. Beck, Jan van Goyen 1596-1656 : Ein Oeuvreverzeichnis, 3 vols., Amsterdam/Doornspijk 1972-1987, I (1972), cat. nos 100, 101, 115; 2 (1973), cat. nos. 429, 430. Especially Beck’s cat. no. 430 dated 1628, seems to underlie the present composition.