Overview

Eight cows quietly chew their cud on the bank of a river while on the dike above two herdsmen talk to a passing rider, their distant forms accented by shafts of late afternoon light breaking through the billowing clouds. To the seventeenth-century Dutch, the well-fed cow symbolized the nation’s prosperity. Milk, butter, and cheese were important components of the Dutch diet, and the succulent cheeses marketed at Gouda and Alkmaar were among the main export products to France, the Spanish Netherlands, and the Iberian peninsula.

Aelbert Cuyp was not the first Dutch artist to focus on a herd of cows, but he portrayed them with a dignity lacking in similar works by his predecessors. Throughout his career, Cuyp remained interested in depicting rural Dutch landscapes, but by the late 1640s he had started to incorporate Italianate elements, derived from the works of Dutch artists who had studied in Italy. Cuyp dramatized his images by portraying his cattle within a generalized, arcadian landscape. By placing his viewer at a low vantage point and silhouetting the cattle against a light-filled background, Cuyp imbued his scene with an aura of pastoral well-being. The "single-wing composition," in which a large diagonal form fills the lower right quadrant of the panel, is characteristic of Dutch landscape paintings of the 1640s and 1650s.

Inscription

lower right: A:Cuijp

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Caroline Anne, 4th marchioness of Ely [1856-1917, née Caroline Anne Caithness], Eversley Park, Winchmore Hill, London; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 3 August 1917, no. 43); (C. Huggins, London);[1] sold 9 August 1917 to (Thos. Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London, and the dealer H.M. Clark); sold September 1919 to Gaston Neuman, Brussels.[2] (sale, Frederik Muller & Co., Amsterdam, 30 November–6 December 1920, 1st day, no. 1024, bought in); (Frederik Muller & Co., Amsterdam), until at least 1922;[3] possibly (Steinmeyer, Lucerne), in 1923;[4] (Paul Cassirer & Co., Berlin), by 1924.[5] Ignaz Petschek, Aussig, Czechoslovakia, by 1927; by inheritance to his son, Frank C. Petschek [d. 1963], Aussig, and New York;[6] by inheritance to his daughters, Elisabeth de Picciotto, New York, and Maria Petschek Smith, Falls Church, Virginia; gift 1986 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1921
Pintores holandeses dibujos, escultura, lithografia y arte aplicado, llevados por la cómision del consejo para las artes representativas de la comision holandesa en el extranjero, Madrid, 1921, no. 51.
1922
Udstilling af Aeldre og Nyere Hollandsk Malerkunst og Moderne Anvendt Kunst, Copenhagen, 1922, no. 30.
1924
Tentoonstelling van Werken door Dortsche Meesters, Pictura, Amsterdam, 1924, no. 10.
2001
Aelbert Cuyp, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Gallery, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2001-2002, no. 19, repro.

Bibliography

1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 2(1909):79, no. 243.
1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 2(1908): 75, no. 243.
1975
Reiss, Stephen. Aelbert Cuyp. Boston, 1975: 206.
1987
Sutton, Peter C. Masters of 17th-century Dutch landscape painting. Exh. cat. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art. Boston, 1987: 294.
1988
Chong, Alan. "In 't verbeelden van Slachtdieren.'" In Meesterlijk vee--Nederlandse veeschilders, 1600-1900. Edited by C. Boschma. Exh. cat. Dordrechts Museum; Fries Museum, Leeuwarden. Zwolle, 1988: 82, repro.
1992
Chong, Alan. "Aelbert Cuyp and the Meanings of Landscape." Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1992: 362-363, no. 121.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 33-36, color repro. 35.
2001
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Aelbert Cuyp. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; National Gallery, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Washington, 2001: no. 19, 130-131.
2014
Bijl, Martin, and Wouter Kloek. "A Painting Re-Attributed to Aebert Cuyp: Connoisseurship and Technical Research." Burlington 156, no. 1331 (February 2014): 91-98, figs. 20, 25, 26, 30, 32.

Conservation Notes

The support is a cradled wood panel composed of three, slightly warped, oak boards joined horizontally. [1] The horizontal grain is prominently visible through the extremely thin, off-white ground layer and paint. Paint is applied in thin opaque layers worked both wet-into-wet and wet-over-dry. Small elements, such as the boats, are painted over landscape and sky, while reserves were left for larger elements, such as the cows. Parallel strokes from a dry brush pulled through drying paint give texture to areas such as the distant landscape, while the sky is vigorously brushmarked.

Small losses are found along the edges, the lower panel join, and the foreground, where a caustic liquid dripped on the surface. Dark passages are moderately abraded. In 1987 discolored varnish and retouching were removed. In 2001 the painting underwent conservation treatment again to remove the varnish and inpainting applied in 1987, which had discolored.

 

[1] The wood was characterized as oak by visual examination.

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