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View of Dordrecht from the North

Aelbert Cuyp (Dordrecht 1620 – Dordrecht 1691)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

circa 1655

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

835 x 2070 x 70 mm

Place of origin

Dordrecht

Order this image

Collection

Ascott Estate, Buckinghamshire

NT 1535110

Caption

This ravishing landscape is one of the most beautiful paintings in the collections of the National Trust. Painted around 1655, it shows the artist’s native Dordrecht from the north-east, at the junction of several of the city’s most important and busiest waterways. The scene is bathed in the warm hazy light of late afternoon, creating the mood of Italianate serenity for which Cuyp’s work became renowned.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, View of Dordercht from the North by Aelbert Cuyp (Dordrecht 1620 – Dordrecht 1691), signed bottom left: A cuÿp, c.1655. Dordrecht is seen from the north-east on the conjunction of two rivers, the Oude Maas and Dordtse Kil, marked by the 'Standard-Mole' windmill. The massive square tower is the Grote Kerk. The quayside is shown as it was rebuilt in 1647 and the scene dates from a bit later after the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648 with an absence of warships, and possibly painted for the artist himself at the time of his marriage to the wealthy Cornelia Bosman, in 1658. The sun is striking the south-west face of teh church tower and both clocks read 5 minutes past seven. A copy of the left half with the view of Dordrecht is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and the View of Dordrect in the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood show appoximately the same view and a painting by Calraet in the National Gallery, London is derived from this.

Full description

Ever since it was reunited, this picture has been reckoned one of Cuyp's supreme achievements, if not his outright masterpiece. Dordrecht - or Dort, as it was often known - was the artist's native city, and he made a number of pictures of it at different points in his career. The very beautiful View of Dordrecht in the Iveagh bequest at Kenwood shows essentially the same scene, but more compressed, and in a more conventional format. There is no certainty as to which version came first - both paintings contain pentimenti, and the preparatory drawings in the Rijksprentenkabinett and the British Museum do not relate consistently only to one or the other - nor do we have any clue as to the reasons for the exceptional format of the present picture. Dordrecht is seen from the north-east, from the Papendrecht, at the point at which the Oude Maas, or Old Meuse, becomes the Beneden Merwede, whence one channel, the Noord, goes northward to the Nieuwe Maas and Rotterdam, and another, the Dortse Kil, goes south to the Hollands Diep, and so towards Antwerp. The city thus lies on one of the busiest waterways in the country, one always filled with a wealth of shipping. Here, a two-masted merchant ship flying Dutch flags is anchored in mid-stream, whilst smaller transport ships called kaags cluster round the entrance to the Wolwerershaven, with the massive shape of the Grote Kerk behind, and the Groothoofsdpoort (with the spire that preceded the present dome, which was only constructed in 1692) to the left. The distant windmill to the right, the 'Standaard-Molen', marks the junction of the Oude Maas and the Dordste Kil. Further right still, more small boats sail in the evening calm, and two rafts link up with a sloop. The quayside is shown as rebuilt in 1647, but the picture itself is generally dated later than this, to the 1650s. By that time Holland was at peace, following the end of the Thirty Years' War, so that there is none of the wealth of warships shown in Cuyp's earlier views of shipping on the Maas. Instead, the raft is an allusion to the hardwoods shipped down from Germany, on which much of Dordrecht's prosperity had been based . A precedent for this was Adam Willaerts's huge View of Dordrecht of 1629 (Dordrechts Museum) which then hung in the Town Hall, and whose elongated format may have been in Cuyp's mind when he composed the present picture. Willaerts's picture had a public function, and was a kind of panorama of Dordrecht; why Cuyp should have adopted this format for an essentially private statement, in which the city was pushed to one side of the picture, and what kind of location it was painted for (it is neither the shape nor the size of a Dutch overmantel), are both unclear. It does not help, but it is also very strange for a picture of this consequence, that (despite all John Longman's researches into picture ownership in 17th-century Dordrecht) we have no record of who owned the painting in Holland, before it appeared sundered into two pictures serving as pendants in Sir George Colebrooke's sale in 1774 (scientific examination kindly undertaken by the National Gallery in 1993 has confirmed that it was indeed originally one picture, and that it was so deftly severed and spliced that virtually nothing has been lost from the centre of it). It is also singular that it bears no trace of any signature, yet has not been cut down. This, the idiosyncratic format, and the lack of any record of early ownership, may all indicate that it was a picture that Cuyp painted for his own pleasure and use - very possibly around the time of his marriage in 1658 to the wealthy Cornelia Bosman, after which he painted less and less. The banker and merchant Sir George Colebrooke, 2nd Bt, MP (1729-1809), who had been educated at Leyden, may have been enabled to get his hands on the picture or pictures through his Dutch connections (the existence of an 18th-century Dutch copy of the left-hand side of the picture, on loan from the City of Amsterdam to the Rijksmuseum, suggests that it may already have been cut up into two - more sellable - pictures of conventional format, before it left Holland). It may be significant that the other Cuyp in Colebrooke's forced sale in 1774 was a View of Nijmegen that had Horace Walpole in raptures, but whose exact identity and earlier history are equally mysterious . For Colebrooke to have owned two topographical Cuyps of such exceptional beauty suggests a very special source for them. As the first of the known owners of this painting, albeit in its sundered form, Sir George Colebrooke deserves a word of his own. A member - ultimately the last survivor - of Henry Thrale's circle, he is the subject of one of Mrs Thrale's most vivid pen-portraits, penned after his final bankruptcy in 1778 : "his Wife was covered with Jewels, his Children harrassed with variety of Masters, he bought Pictures of great Value, & all was Rapacity, and all was Profusion. What was remarkable however .... was, that he never had money for trifling Occasions ... He was a pretty little Dapper Man when at his best; one Summer that Green Coats & White Wastecoats were worne, Lady Lade observed that Sir George Colebrooke looked like a Leg of Lamb & Spinach". His affairs ultimately recovered enough for him to live in decent retirement in Bath, and his third son, Henry, became the first great Sanskrit scholar of Europe. The picture's next owner, George III's former Prime Minister, John, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713-1792) - if it was indeed from him that his daughter-in-law, Louisa, Lady Stuart, had it - was the outstanding collector of Dutch pictures in Britain in the second half of the 18th century, at his houses of Luton Hoo and Highcliffe . Most of the pictures in the sale of the widow of his third and favourite son, General Sir Charles Stuart (1753-1801), seem originally to have belonged to him. Robert Stayner Holford (1808-1892), who bought the reunited picture, had inherited a million pounds from his uncle in 1838, in addition to his own already substantial fortune. Through his wife, Mary-Anne Lindsay, he became brother-in-law to a whole nexus of aesthetes, collectors, and art-historians: Sir Coutts Lindsay, Lord Wantage, and Alexander, Earl of Crawford & Balcarres. Encouraged by William Buchanan, he had already began collecting pictures in 1839. Kept and hung in the palatial residences built for him by Lewis Vulliamy - Dorchester House, London, and Westonbirt, Gloucestershire - his collection of paintings and of illuminated manuscripts was one of the greatest of the century . The pictures were dispersed in two auctions at Christie's, in July 1927 and May 1928, and it was at the second of these that Anthony de Rothschild acquired this Cuyp, for 20,000 guineas - by no means the highest price at the sale. Anthony de Rothschild (1887-1961), the inheritor of a third of the third share inherited by his father, Baron Leopold, of another great 19th-century collection of pictures, that formed at 148 Piccadilly and Gunnersbury Park by Baron Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879), primarily added to these an immensely fine collection of Chinese porcelain, but he also acquired a number of pictures (many of them English) of which this is by far and away the most distinguished. He may even have felt a particular fondness for Cuyp, since he bought not only this, but the Landscape with a horseman on a road, [N.Reiss no?] which had at one point belonged to Baron Lionel, and may also have bought the Peasant Boy with Cattle and Sheep, which, though generally ignored in the literature, may be a perfectly genuine picture disfigured by overpaint. Neither of them, however, approaches the beauty of this picture, which Anthony Blunt described as embodying: "one of the most romantic renderings of light effects in the whole of Dutch painting" . Exhibition: British Institution, 1815, Nos.134 & 133; 1843, No.115; 1852, No.68; 1862, No.4; Royal Academy, Winter, 1887, No.75; Burlington Finae Arts Club (BFAC), 1900, No.31; Exposition Hollandaise, Paris, Louvre, 1921, No.5; Dutch Art, Royal Academy, Winter, 1929, No.265 (Commem. Cat., p.28); BFAC, 1936, No.68; Aelbert Cuyp in British Collections, National Gallery, 1973, No.13; Art in Seventeenth Century Holland, National Galllery, 1976, No.27; De Zichtbaere Werelt, Dordrechts Museum, 1992-93, No.22 (entry by Alan Chong). Notes: (i) See Chong, exh. cat. 1992-3, p.132. (ii) Possibly The Valkhof at Nijmegen, Woburn Abbey; see exh. cat. The Treasure Houses of Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985 -86, no.316; or the shipping-piece called Prince Frederick Henry at Nijmegen in the Sutherland Collection; cf. Reiss, op. cit., no.103, p.142. (iii) See Thraliana, ed. Katharine C. Balderston, Oxford, 1942, vol.I, pp.334-35. (iv) See Francis Russell in exh. cat. The Treasure Houses of Great Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985-86, under no.307). (v) See Charles Sebag-Montefiore, 'Three lost collections of London', National Art Collections Fund (NACF) Magazine, No.38, Christmas 1988, pp.50-56 (esp. the fig. on p.53, showing the Cuyp hanging beside the chimneypiece in the Green Drawing Room). (vi) The Ascott Collection, The National Trust, 1963, p.7. (Adapted from pre-publication/unedited version of Alastair Laing, In Trust for the Nation, 1995)

Provenance

Though painted as one picture, the View of Dordrecht seems first to be recorded as two pictures; reputedly owned and cut in two by Captain William Baillie (1723 - 1810) and called 'Morning' and 'Evening'; in the sale of Sir George Colebrooke, Bt, MP (a banker and merchant with interests in Holland) at Christie's, 23 April 1774, lots 22 (`A View of Dort with a variety of shipping, etc.') and 23 (`Boats with a raft floating, its companion')[bought C. Bathall]; then possibly in the collection of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713-1792) (who owned the great River Landscape now in the National Gallery); in the collection of his widowed daughter-in-law, Louisa Bertie, Lady Stuart (1747-1841) by 1815; her sale, Christie's, 15 May 1841, lots 74-75, the view of Dordrecht as 'Morning' and the river scene on the right as 'Evening'; bought by the London dealer, Thomas B. Brown, who reunited the two halves and sold the picture to Robert Holford (1808-1892), in whose collection it was noted by Smith in 1842; Sir George Holford (1860 - 1926) sale, Christie's, 17 May 1928, lot 10; bought by Agnew's for Anthony de Rothschild; by whom given to the National Trust, along with the house, grounds, and the remainder of the ground-floor collections at Ascott, in 1949

Credit line

Ascott, The Anthony de Rothschild Collection (National Trust)

Makers and roles

Aelbert Cuyp (Dordrecht 1620 – Dordrecht 1691), artist

Exhibition history

In Trust for the Nation, National Gallery, London, 1995 - 1996, no.29

References

Smith 1829-42 John Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters, 8 vols and supplement, London, 1829-42, 1834, V, nos. 187 & 188 Smith 1842 John Smith, Supplement to the Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, London, 1842, no. 52 Waagen 1854-7 Gustav Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 3 vols. (translated by Lady Eastlake) with a supplementary volume: Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, London, 1854-7, II, p. 202 Blanc 1857 & 1861 Charles Blanc, Le trésors de la curiosité, Paris, 1857 & 1861, 1861, p. 10 Redgrave, 1866 Richard and Samuel Redgrave, A Century of Panters, 1866, Vol. I, p. 16 Hofstede de Groot 1907-28 C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, 8 vols., London, 1907-28, II, no. 164 Catalogue of the Holford Collection (ed. G. L. Holford), Dorchester House, Oxford, 1927, II, no. 152, pl. CXXXVII (frontispiece) Earp 1928 T. W. Earp, 'The Holford Collectin', Studio, XCVI, 1928, p. 104 repd. Reiss 1975 Stephen Reiss, Aelbert Cuyp, 1975, no. 98, p. 137 Aelbert Cuypen zijn familie, (exh. cat.), Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht, 1977-78, p. 88 Francis Russell, 'Engagements at sea: the 3rd Earl of Bute's picture collection at Highcliffe', Country Life, 26 January 1984, p. 228 Chong 1993 Alan Chong Aelbert Cuyp and the Meanings of Landscape, PhD for New York University, Ann Arbor, pp. 415-417, no. 163 De Zichtbaere Werelt: Schilderkunst uit de Gouden Eeuw in Hollands Oudste Stad (exh cat; ed. Peter Marijnissen), Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht, 29 - November 1992 - 28 February 1993 Aelbert Cuyp, (exh. cat.) (ed. Arthur K. Wheelock), National Gallery of Art, Washington, National Gallery, London and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2001-2002, p. 162 & illus. pp. 163 & 14 (detail) Russell 2004 Francis Russell, John, 3rd Earl of Bute: Patron & Collector, 2004, p. 203 & pl. 174 Butler 2006 Nesta Butler, 'William Baillie, a man of many parts', Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies, The Irish Georgian Society, vol. IX, 2006, pp. 188 & 219, n0. 60 and pl. 23 Ascott, Buckinghamshire, Scala, 2008 by John Martin Robinson and others [pictures entries by Karin Wolfe on basis of Gore entries, 1963 with contributions from Alastair Laing] , no. 29 Prized Possessions: Dutch Paintings from National Trust Houses (exh. cat.), Holburne Museum, Bath 25 May - 16 Sep 2018; Mauritshuis, The Hague, 11 Oct 2018 - 6 Jan 2019; Petworth House, West Sussex, 26 Jan - 24 Mar 2019., pp.76 -81, no.5

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