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Between and Mortarboard

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A River Landscape

Accession Number

A River Landscape

Jan Brueghel

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
gouache and ink on paper

17 1/2 in. x 22 1/2 in. ( 44.45 cm x 57.15 cm )

Credit Line
Joseph F. McCrindle Collection

Label copy
These two works highlight aspects of Dutch mercantile activity and the signi cance of maritime trade in Northern Europe in the seventeenth century. The prolific Nooms, who often signed his works Zeeman (meaning seaman), specialized in depictions of ships, ports, and other marine views at this time in Holland; he executed about 170 etchings between 1650 and 1656. This print belongs to a set of twelve views of shipyards and harbors. A number of boats are enclosed in the harbor to be refitted—a quiet moment in the life of Dutch shipping. Two speedy fluyt ( fluit, or ute) ships are anchored on the left, while two larger East Indiamen, boats used for transporting goods from the Dutch East India Company’s territories in Asia, are on the right. The absence of sails on the spars of these large ships and 
their tattered flags suggest that they have returned from long journeys at sea. Although the gures are small, their varied poses lend visual interest to the image and encourage the viewer to contemplate the large expanse of the waterway and the variety of human activity. 
While the print signals Holland’s thriving economy and commercial ambitions, the drawing is more restricted in scope, emphasizing merchant activity and the significance of smaller waterways in local commerce. On the outskirts of the city, people are busy loading goods on and off of boats and sailing down the winding river. The figures and their activities guide the viewer into the working landscape that extends and also dissolves into the distance. 

Subject matter
This sketch depicts a bustling river scene, a common subject of seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish art. The artist used lightly drawn pen lines to create the forms and figures of the landscape, and then applied a gray wash that lightens in the background areas to create a sense of distance and atmosphere.

Physical Description
The drawing depicts a river with at least a dozen boats of various sizes in the fore- and middle grounds. The ships range in size from a larger boat with a single tall mast, to smaller boats with and without sails, including a small boat in the lower left corner poled by a man standing in the stern that seems to be ferrying a group of people across the river. Many of the boats are docked and are being loaded or unloaded. The spires and rooftops of towns are visible on both riverbanks.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

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drawing (image-making)
landscapes (representations)

1 Related Resource

(Part of: Exchange and Influence on Global Trade Routes)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display