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Aert van der Neer - A moonlit river landscape with a village, a windmill and a church beyond

Aert van der Neer

A moonlit river landscape with a village, a windmill and a church beyond

Oil on canvas: 21.3(h) x 28.4(w) in / 54(h) x 72.1(w) cm
Signed with monogram lower right: AVDN

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Gorinchem 1603/4 -  1677 Amsterdam

Ref: BZ 184


A moonlit river landscape with a village, a windmill and a church beyond


Signed with monogram lower right: AVDN

Oil on canvas: 21¼ x 28 3/8 in / 54 x 72.1 cm

Frame size: 25 ¾ x 28 ¾ in





Probably anonymous sale, Christie’s London, 16th April 1923, lot 115 (An extensive view over a river: moonlight; £19 19s. to Wise); M. Schloss, Amsterdam; from whom acquired by Jacques Goudstikker (1897-1940), Amsterdam, stock no.3053, until May 1940 when Aryanised by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring; Hermann Göring, Carinhall, delivered 13th September 1940 and hung in the Smoking Room; transferred to Alois Miedl, 9th February 1944, in part exchange for Han van Meegeren’s fake ‘Vermeer’, Christ and the woman taken in adultery; with Goudstikker-Miedl, stock no.H51; from whom bought by Cornel Berk, Burg Neu-Hemmerich, Frechen, near Cologne, for 32,000 florins, 28th June 1944; anonymous sale, Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 24 June 1953, lot 49; private collection, Europe; restituted to the heir of Jacques Goudstikker, May 2021



W Schulz, Aert van der Neer, Doornspijk 2002, p.376, cat. no.967 N Yeide, Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection, Dallas 2009, p.257, cat. no.A230 J-M Dreyfus, Le catalogue Goering, Paris 2015, p.168, no. RM228/F373



Born in Gorinchem near Dordrecht, Aert van der Neer had settled in Amsterdam by 1628. His first dated landscape is of 1633, but he only forged his personal style from 1643, specializing in extraordinarily delicate and poetic moonlight, twilight and winter scenes. The tonal control required for night scenes had been developed from the Renaissance, in works such as Raphael’s Liberation of St Peter, 1514, in the Vatican Stanze, with its cloud-flecked moon. Adam Elsheimer, a German artist based in Italy, pioneered naturalistic moonlit landscapes like his Flight into Egypt, 1609 (Alte Pinakothek, Munich).


Van der Neer’s Moonlit river landscape gives the viewer the sensation of eyes adjusting to darkness and details coming into focus. Under a silvery full moon, complex water channels and tussocks of land on the edge of the village are revealed. Two men and their dog walk along a path, while the windows of a house glint in the moonlight. The dog alone is a tour-de-force of elegant, allusive brushwork. The central focus is the silhouette of a church tower, framed between moonlit clouds and the reflection of the moon in the water. The beautifully controlled, sophisticated composition gives the impression of spontaneous, naturalistic observation. Not for nothing was van der Neer regarded as the leading painter of moonlight scenes in Amsterdam in the 1640s and 50s.


Note on the provenance


This work formed part of the stock of Jacques Goudstikker (1897-1940), one of the most important Amsterdam dealers in Old Master paintings between the Wars. Goudstikker died trying to escape the Nazis in May 1940 and his property was ‘Aryanized’ by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, an insatiably greedy looter of cultural artefacts. The van der Neer hung in his Smoking Room at Carinhall, the mansion near Berlin named after his first wife, Carin von Kantzow. In 1944 it was transferred to the dealer Alois Miedl as part of a group of around 140 paintings exchanged by Göring for ‘Johannes Vermeer’s’ Christ and the woman taken in adultery, which was in fact a fake executed by Han van Meegeren. Miedl, one of the most notorious art world collaborators with the Nazi regime, appropriated the name of Goudstikker for his business, Goudstikker-Miedl. After passing through several European collections, Aert van der Neer’s Moonlit river landscape was restituted to the heir of Jacques Goudstikker in 2021.





Detail of the monogram.



Gorinchem 1603/4 – 1677 Amsterdam


Aert van der Neer was one of the most important European landscape painters of the seventeenth century. He was born in 1604 at Gorinchem (Gorcum), a town on the river Waal east of Dordrecht. He was the son of Egrom van der Neer and Aeltge Jansdr. In his youth Aert was for a short time a steward (majoor) in the service of the lords of Arcel just north of Gorinchem, but by 1628 had settled in Amsterdam. Nothing is known of his early artistic development or training. He is called a painter in 1629, but his first known work dates from 1632. In 1629 van der Neer was living at Herenmarkt near the Brouwersgracht. He married Lijsbeth Govers from Bergen-op-Zoom, who lived in the Warmoesstraat near the Damrak.


In his landscapes of the 1630s van der Neer was influenced both by Flemish and the Haarlem school of landscape painting. In 1633 he worked in Amsterdam with Jochem Camphuysen, whose brother Rafael he probably also knew. In 1635 van der Neer painted his first commissioned landscape, of large dimension. Although this was followed by further commissions around 1640, it is only after 1643 that van der Neer began to explore the atmosphere of different times of day. He excelled in extraordinary poetic landscapes of sunrise and sunset and is unrivalled as a painter of moonlight in Dutch art. Today, as in the eighteenth century, van der Neer’s winter scenes rank in critical estimation with those of Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634).


Van der Neer’s first real evening landscape was the painting of 1643 now in Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha. In the second half of the 1640s he explored the changing effects of light in late evening or at night, reflected in rivers, lakes and marshes. His first really remarkable paintings of this kind are the moonlit river landscape of circa 1646 from the Six Collection, now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the townscape by moonlight in the Museum Bredius at The Hague. There is a fine comparable riverscape in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt. This phase of van der Neer’s development culminated – after the huge summer landscapes of around 1650 – in small, jewel-like paintings for collectors’ cabinets, which he executed in the 1650s.


From 1659 to 1662 van der Neer kept a tavern on the Kalverstraat, while continuing to paint winter landscapes of the highest quality. In December 1662 he was declared bankrupt. He continued to paint, probably until the beginning of the 1670s. In spite of being one of the most outstanding landscapists of the seventeenth century, van der Neer died in poverty in Amsterdam on 9th November 1677. His son Eglon van der Neer (1634-1703) became a successful genre painter while Johannes (Jan) van der Neer (1637/8-1665) followed his father as a landscape painter.


The work of Aert van der Neer is represented in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam; the Mauritshuis, The Hague; the National Gallery, London; the Wallace Collection, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Louvre, Paris.






Other Works By
Aert van der Neer:

Aert van der Neer - A river landscape with figures and a cottage among trees on the bank of a stream