Aelbert Cuyp’s painting of herdsmen and cattle along a river with an evocative ruin in the background is more pastoral than agricultural in its associations. In this respect it parallels a rich literary tradition glorifying the values of rural life. The herdsman in the bright red jacket seems to be getting his cows ready to return to the farmstead, if only he can convince his female companion to abandon this lovely spot on the riverbank.
Many of the components of this work—the golden light, the atmospheric character of the distant landscape with its dramatic ruins, the diffused golden light that casts long shadows, the abstract shapes of the rocks and branches in the foreground—show the influence of the Italianate style of Jan Both (1615/1618–1652) and other Dutch artists who had worked in Italy.
This painting of herders and cattle situated along an inland waterway and near an evocative ruin has arcadian rather than agricultural associations. In this respect it parallels a rich literary tradition that glorified the values of country life. These ideals, espoused by P. C. Hooft, J. van Heemskerck, and other Dutch writers and playwrights of the seventeenth century, seemed to have had particular resonance in and around Dordrecht.
Lambert van den Bos, for example, the headmaster of a local school in Dordrecht, wrote a book entitled Dordrechtsche Arcadia in 1662.
As is mentioned in the entry for Cuyp’s
For Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp, see Sander Paarlberg, ed., Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (1594–1652) (Dordrecht, 2002).
Although it seems probable that Cuyp executed Herdsmen Tending Cattle in the middle to late 1650s, establishing a precise date for this work is difficult given the dearth of dated paintings in his oeuvre. Many of the components of this work—the contre-jour light effects, the atmospheric character of the distant landscape, the abstract shapes of foreground rocks and lacy branches, and even the donkey and its saddle—are similar in character to
Although Herdsmen Tending Cattle has been widely published and praised, its poor appearance prior to its restoration in 1994 when discolored varnish and extensive overpaint were removed, made it difficult to fully appreciate its original qualities. The painting has, nevertheless, suffered various losses, and the surface is moderately abraded [see
A gradual loss of material on the surface. It can be caused by rubbing, wearing, or scraping against itself or another material. It may be a deteriorative process that occurs over time as a result of weathering or handling or it may be due to a deliberate attempt to smooth the material.
A large paint loss and a long horizontal tear are present in the upper left sky. The ground is of medium thickness, is pigmented, and has a cool, pale ocher color. Cuyp modified the paint, applied in thin layers with no appreciable texture or impasto, with transparent and translucent glazes and thin opaque scumbles [see
See the 1995 archived version of the catalog, p. 46, fig. 1.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
lower left: A.cuijp
Possibly Gerard Vandergucht [1696-1776], London, c. 1750; possibly (his sale, London, 1757, no. 66); Jennens, possibly for Henry Penton [d. 1806], London; (his sale, Skinner & Dyke, London, 10 June 1800, no. 49); Sir Henry Paulet St. John-Mildmay, 3rd bt. [1764-1808], Dogmersfield House, Hampshire; by inheritance to his wife, Lady Jane St. John-Mildmay [c. 1765-1857], Dogmersfield House; by inheritance to her grandson, Sir Henry Bouverie Paulet St. John-Mildmay, 5th bt. [1810-1902], Dogmersfield House; by inheritance to his son, Sir Henry Paulet St. John-Mildmay, 6th bt. [1853-1916], Dogmersfield House; (M. Knoedler & Co., New York), from 1902; sold April 1905 to Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 28 December 1934 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.
- British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1866, no. 43.
- Works by Old Masters and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1883, no. 243.
- Loan Collection of Pictures, Art Gallery of the Corporation of London, Guildhall, London, 1894, no. 51.
- Exhibition of a Selection of Works by Early and Modern Painters of the Dutch School, Art Gallery of the Corporation of London, Guildhall, London, 1903, no. 176.
- Paintings by Old Masters from Pittsburgh Collections, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1925, no. 10.
- Time and Transformation in Dutch Seventeenth Century Art, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie; The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota; The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, 2005-2006, no. 13, repro.
The original, plain-woven, medium-weight fabric support has been lined. Tacking margins have been removed, and the remaining paint edges are worn. Cusping is slight on all sides but particularly along the left edge, suggesting that the painting’s dimensions may have been slightly reduced along that side. A large paint loss and a long horizontal tear are present in the upper left sky. The ground is of medium thickness, is pigmented, and has a cool, pale ocher color.
The paint, applied in thin layers with no appreciable texture or impasto, is modified with transparent and translucent glazes and thin opaque scumbles. Aside from the loss around the tear, scattered small losses occur in the distant landscape, along the edges, and in a vertical band through the cows. Moderate abrasion is present overall, particularly in the clouds and dark areas in the foreground and cows.
Conservation was carried out in 1958 to adjust inpainting in the sky and in 1978 to consolidate minor local flaking. A complete treatment was undertaken in 1994 in which old inpaint and discolored varnish were removed.
 If the painting was reduced in size, the reduction took place prior to 1760. This is the date on a reproductive engraving by Francois Vivares, which shows the identical composition in reverse, except for a pair of birds.
During this treatment the NGA Scientific Research department analyzed the blue pigment used in the sky using polarized light microscopy and found it to be smalt (see report dated February 17, 1994, in NGA Conservation department files).
- Burnet, John. Practical hints on light and shade in painting. London, 1826: 26-27, pl. 6, fig. 1 (etching).
- Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 5(1834):305, no. 75.
- Burnet, John. "Practical Hints on Light and Shade in Painting." In A Treatise on Painting in Four Parts. Reprint. London, 1850: Part 3:26-27, pl. 6, fig. 1 (etching).
- British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Catalogue of pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, Franch, and English masters. Exh. cat. British Institution. London, 1866: no. 43.
- Burnet, John. "Practical Hints on Light and Shade in Painting." In A Treatise on Painting in Four Parts. Reprint. London, 1880: Part 2:26-27, pl. 6, fig. 1 (etching).
- Royal Academy of Arts. Exhibition of works by the old masters, and by deceased masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1882: 28, no. 243.
- Cundall, Frank. The Landscape and Pastoral Painters of Holland: Ruisdael, Hobbema, Cuijp, Potter. Illustrated biographies of the great artists. London, 1891: 161.
- Temple, Alfred G. Masterpieces of Art. Exh. cat. Art Gallery of the Corporation of London, 1894: 14, repro.
- 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):68, no. 203.
- 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):68, no. 203.
- Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813-1912. 5 vols. London, 1913-1915: 1(1913):245, 247, 250.
- Carnegie Institute. An Exhibition of Paintings by Old Masters from the Pittsburgh Collections. Exh. cat. Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1925: no. 10.
- Jewell, Edward Alden. "Mellon's Gift." Magazine of Art 30, no. 2 (February 1937): 82.
- Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 50-51, no. 59.
- Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 240, repro. 23.
- National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 96, no. 59, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 314, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 35.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 28, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 88, repro.
- Reiss, Stephen. Aelbert Cuyp. Boston, 1975: 129, no. 92, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 298, no. 402, color repro.
- Spicer, Joaneath A. "'De Koe voor d’aerde statt': The Origin of the Dutch Cattle Piece." In Essays in Northern European Art Presented to Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann on His Sixtieth Birthday. Edited by Anne-Marie Logan. Doornspijk, 1983: 251-253, fig. 2.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 298, no. 396, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 109, repro.
- Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 306, fig. 456.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 54, 73, color repro.
- Chong, Alan. "Aelbert Cuyp and the Meanings of Landscape." Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1992: 509, no. Calr. 12.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 44-46, color repro. 45.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Aelbert Cuyp. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; National Gallery, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Washington, 2001: 29, fig. 20.
- George S. Keyes, et al. Masters of Dutch Painting: The Detroit Institute of Arts. London, 2004: 62, fig. 2.
- Kuretsky, Susan Donahue. Time and Transformation in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art. Exh. cat. Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota; J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville. Seattle, 2005: 24, 135-137, no. 13.
- landscape +Italianate
- landscape +picturesque
- landscape with ruins
- Arcadian scenes
- artist +Jan Both + influence of
- historical person +PC Hooft