Ascott, The Anthony de Rothschild Collection (National Trust), ©NTPL/John Hammond

View of Dordrecht from the North

Aelbert Cuyp, ca. 1655
Ascott House, Buckinghamshire

“Mother and Sovereign of all cities of this glorious landscape,” was the grand title given to Dordrecht, according to the cartographer Joan Blaeu. Aelbert Cuyp seems to want to affirm that elegant grandeur visually with the golden evening light that falls over the city. The tranquil view of his birthplace – Holland’s oldest city – is a highlight of Cuyp’s oeuvre and one of the most beautiful cityscapes of the seventeenth century. The warm glow of a setting sun penetrates the elongated painting from the right, illuminating the sky and the busy river landscape in subtle gradations until it reaches the city on the far left. That serene atmosphere of a languid summer evening and the golden light provoked a true craze for Cuyp in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. “The beauties of the work are so fully appreciated, that it were needless to say anything in its praise,” wrote The Art Journal in 1852 when the View of Dordrecht from the North was exhibited in London. William Turner admired it as early as 1815. Vincent van Gogh was also a great admirer of Cuyp, although he saw only a copy of the left-hand section of the painting.

Sander Paarlberg, Curator of old master paintings, Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht

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