Aert van der Neer
Village Street by Moonlight
Oil on canvas. 64.1 x 59.1 cm.
Monogrammed lower right: AV DN.
Wolfgang Schulz dates this painting to around 1655-1659, at a time he describes as one of "outstanding creativity". This was the time in which Van der Neer perfected his mature style. Although he occasionally still painted the Dutch landscape under a bright summer sun, Van der Neer preferred more complex times of day, developing an incomparable talent for painting twilight scenes and moonlit nights. His evening and night-time landscapes, which he began painting in around 1655 and continued until the end of the decade, are characterised by their elegant compositions, fascinating details, and atmospheric moods.
In this "Village Street by Moonlight" the strong diagonal of the road leads the eye far into the distance to where the clouds are illuminated by the silvery light of the moon. Following the first initial glance, we also become aware of the complexity of the foreground scene: Two gentlemen and a dog on the left, a wagon wheel and a wagon, a couple strolling companionably through the street. To capture this unique magical moment, van der Neer uses a subtle palette ranging from the icy blue of the sky to a rich array of brown tones and silver-gilt moonlight, to create the impression of a calm spring night. A very similar work from the same period and of similar size can be found in the Louvre (W. Schulz, op. cit., no. 457, fig. 219).
The present work was formerly housed in the collection of John Rushout, 2nd Baron Northwick (1769-1859), one of the greatest art connoisseurs of the 19th century. In 1838 he bought Thirlestaine House in Cheltenham, constructed in the Greek Revival style, to house his collection of over five hundred paintings. Every afternoon between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., the house was opened to the public to enjoy the paintings. These included works by Giotto, da Vinci, Raphael, Dürer, Titian, and Caravaggio. Northwick died unmarried in 1859 and his heirs sold Thirlestaine and its inventory in the same year. The auction lasted 22 days.
John Rushout, 2. Baron Northwick (1769-1859), Thirlestane House, Cheltenham. - His sale, Philipps in Thirlestane House, 26.07 1859, lot 515. - Acquired here by Cecil Dunn Gardner, in his collection until 1881. - Maurice Kann, Paris. - His sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 9.6. 1911, lot 34 (illus.) - Sold to Tulpick for 32.000 FFr. - Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris (his seal to the reverse). - Continental private collection.
G.F. Waagen: Treasures of Art in Great Britain, London 1854, vol. III, p. 209 (Lord Northwick´s collection, Thirlestane House). - Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raissoné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, vol. VII, London 1923, p. 424, no. 428. - W. Schulz: Aert van der Neer, Doornspijk 2002, p. 344-5, no. 799, illus. 218.