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Jan van Goyen - River landscape with a castle with a round tower

Jan van Goyen

River landscape with a castle with a round tower

Oil on panel: 22.2(h) x 31.4(w) in / 56.5(h) x 79.7(w) cm
Signed with monogram and dated lower left: VG 1642 (VG in ligature)

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BZ 125



Leiden 1596 - 1656 The Hague


River landscape with a castle with a round tower


Signed with monogram and dated lower left: VG 1642 (VG in ligature)

Oil on panel: 22 ¼ x 31 3/8 in / 56.5 x 79.8 cm

Frame size: 30 x 38 ¾ in / 76.2 x 98.4 cm



Jules Porgès (1839-1921), Paris

Sir Felix Cassel (1869-1953), London

Wildenstein, London, circa 1946

Eugene Slatter, London, by 1948;

from whom probably acquired by Albert Ehrman (1890-1960), London;

by descent;

Richard Green, London, 2017;

private collection, USA



London, Eugene Slatter Gallery, Dutch and Flemish Masters, 5th May-10th July 1948, no.6



Illustrated London News, 22nd May 1948, illus.

H Shipp, The Dutch Masters, London 1952, p.92, colour pl.IX

A Dobrzycka, Jan van Goyen 1696-1656, Poznan 1966, p.103, no.115

H-U Beck, Jan van Goyen 1596-1656, vol. II, Amsterdam 1973, p.296, no.649, illus.


In the 1630s Jan van Goyen moved away from landscapes with strong local colours, influenced by Esaias van de Velde (1587-1630), towards a ‘tonal’ style which explores the nuances of nature through a limited, carefully harmonised palette. In the early 1640s he introduced compositions based on a subtle range of creamy yellow, gold, ochre, buff and warm greys, as in this River landscape of 1642. A similar palette is found in the work of Isack van Ostade (1621-1649) and Salomon van Ruysdael (1600/3-1670) at this period.


In this River landscape, a brilliant band of sunlight throws into relief the sandy bank in the foreground, leading the eye towards the ramshackle fortification. The sky occupies more than two-thirds of the painting, giving the composition its energy as clouds spiral over the village. To the left is a vast inland waterway, reminding us that there was less reclaimed land in the northern Netherlands in the mid-seventeenth century than there is today. The distant boats – by far the easiest and swiftest means of travel – are executed in grey-green with the most delicate of brush tip. One can make out a windmill and, across a huge and atmospheric expanse of water, a town with a substantial church tower.


Van Goyen, a restless man, travelled the length and breadth of the Netherlands, making black chalk sketches, the elements of which he combined in new compositions. His paintings are rarely unmediated topographical transcripts. His assurance as a draughtsman is reflected in his paintings. This is evident in the present work in the sinuous freedom with which he describes the misty line of boats and figures along the quayside in the middle distance, and in the figures of the foreground fishermen, conjured up from a few quick washes given definition by a squiggle of fine lines.


By 1642 the northern Netherlands had been fighting the Hapsburg south, on and off, for nearly eighty years. Fortifications were an essential feature of the landscape and a favourite motif of van Goyen. A similar pair of towers and shoreline are found in an upright painting by van Goyen, A castle by a river, 1647 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)[1]. Hans-Ulrich Beck suggested that the fortification in the present work may be based on the moated Culemborg Castle in Gelderland[2]. A 1647 drawing of Culemborg Castle by Roelant Roghman (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC) shows a similar arrangement of a square and round tower with a lower round tower in front.



Note on the provenance


This painting has been in several distinguished collections. It is first recorded in the collection of Jules Porgès (1839-1921), who made his fortune developing the South African diamond and gold mines. He founded the mining and financial group known as the Corner House with his employees Alfred Beit and Julius Wernher, who themselves became major art collectors. Porgès had largely retired from South African business by 1890 and built a chateau at Rochefort-en-Yvelines near Paris, as well as owning a house on the Avenue Montaigne, where he displayed his superb art collection.


The van Goyen was next owned by the Judge and politician Sir Felix Cassel (1869-1953), nephew of Edward VII’s banker, Sir Ernest Cassel (1852-1921). More recently it was in the collection of the diamond broker Albert Ehrman (1890-1960), in whose family it descended.





Jan van Goyen, A castle by a river, 1647.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.



Roelant Roghman, Culemborg Castle, 1647. Black chalk with grey wash over graphite.

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.







Leiden 1596 - 1656 The Hague


Jan van Goyen was a prolific painter and draughtsman whose career spanned more than thirty-five years. During his early life he was influenced by Esaias van de Velde, the first Dutch painter to abandon the mannerisms of the Flemish style in favour of more naturalistic landscape views. He then began to paint in the new Haarlem landscape idiom, distinguished by its atmospheric quality and monochromatic palette, richly varied in tone. Van Goyen, Pieter de Molijn and Salomon van Ruysdael were the principal exponents of this style.


Van Goyen was born in Leiden in 1596 and from 1606 was the pupil successively of the Leiden painters Coenraet van Schilperoort, Isaac Claesz. van Swanenburgh, Jan Arentsz. de Man and the glass-painter Cornelis Cornelisz. Clock.  He then studied for two years with Willem Gerritsz. at Hoorn. Van Goyen went back to Leiden and worked on his own; at the age of about nineteen he travelled in France for a year and from 1617-18 he was the pupil of Esaias van de Velde in Haarlem. Van de Velde strongly influenced the style of van Goyen’s early paintings from 1620 to 1626.


Van Goyen went to The Hague in 1632, where he acquired citizenship in 1634.  During that same year he worked in Haarlem, painting in the house of Isaac van Ruysdael, the brother of Salomon. He was a hoofdman of The Hague Guild in 1638 and 1640, and in 1651 he painted for the Burgomasters’ Room in The Hague Town Hall a panoramic view of the town, for which he received 650 guilders. Despite his astounding rate of production, van Goyen was constantly beset with financial difficulties; he incurred great losses in the ‘tulipmania’ of 1636-7 and died insolvent.


The work of Jan van Goyen is represented in the National Gallery, London; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; the Louvre, Paris; the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.





[1] Inv. no.WA1962.17.15. Beck, op. cit., vol. II, p.90, no.182, illus.

[2] Beck ibid., vol. II, p.296, no.649.