Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Piping Shepherds

Aelbert Cuyp (Dutch, Dordrecht 1620–1691 Dordrecht)
ca. 1643–44
Oil on canvas
35 3/4 x 47 in. (90.8 x 119.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Collis P. Huntington, 1900
Accession Number:
Not on view
This early picture by Cuyp dates from about 1643–44. The figures resemble those painted by the artist's father, Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp, but the canvas is not one of their collaborative efforts. Many Dutch artists painted idyllic views of the Dutch countryside, but this one is distinguished by its charming naïveté: the pipers play, the animals assemble, and the dog seems to know it is time to go home.
This is a signed early work by Cuyp, probably painted about 1643–44. Although larger than most works painted by the artist when he was in his early to mid-twenties, the painting shares with them a fluid touch and a palette reminiscent of Jan van Goyen; pale browns and yellows blend together in the landscape, tans and grays in the costumes, and blues in the sky. The color of the light and the fall of the shadows suggest that the time is late afternoon, which is consistent with the alignment of Dordrecht Cathedral on the horizon to the far left. A mood of quiet contentment prevails: the boy plays a flute, the man a bagpipe, and a younger boy lies on the ground, while attentive cows and smiling sheep seem to assemble for the music or for the walk back home. The playful dog, by contrast, appears to eye the viewer.

Reiss (1952) seems somewhat uncertain of the attribution, and implies that the figures and animals may be by Aelbert's father, Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (1594–1651/52). The question is raised by the general resemblance of the figures to types painted by the elder Cuyp, and by known examples of collaboration between father and son in the early 1640s. The execution, however, reveals no indications of more than one hand, and is entirely consistent with Aelbert's undisputed works of the early 1640s, such as Sunset near Dordrecht (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam) and Orpheus Charming the Animals (private collection, Boston).

As several authors have noted (see Refs.), the landscape in the left background, with its distant view of Dordrecht Cathedral (the Grote Kerk), corresponds with a drawing, Dordrecht from the East (Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), made from nature by Cuyp about 1641–43. Cuyp used the same study for the backgrounds of The Kicking Horse (Philadelphia Museum of Art) and Landscape near Dordrecht with Shepherds Teasing a Goat (private collection, The Netherlands). The latter is also similar to The Met's picture in its grouping of trees and animals at the right, and in the scale of the shepherds (who differ, but wear the same hats).

The boy lying on the ground is an early instance of a common motif in Cuyp's work. The sheep probably derive from examples by his father. The entrance of cows and other animals from offstage is a common occurrence in the elder Cuyp's oeuvre, where a model for the dog is also found. To judge from their facial types, the musical shepherds may also have immediate antecedents in the work of Cuyp's father, but none is presently known.

A copy of two-thirds of the composition, cropping the left side and replacing the dog with a copper jug, was on the art market in 1990.

[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed (lower right): A cuÿp. F.
William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough, London and Parkstead House, Roehampton, Surrey (until d. 1793); Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough (1793–d. 1844; his sale, Christie's, London, February 5–7, 1801, no. 60, as "A Landscape and Cattle, a View from Nature, in Holland," by A. Cuyp, for £409.10, bought in; his anonymous sale, Christie's, London, April 7, 1801, no. 60, for £189, bought in; inv., 1826); John William Ponsonby, 4th Earl of Bessborough (1844–d. 1847); John George Brabazon Ponsonby, 5th Earl of Bessborough (1847–d. 1880; his sale, April 1, 1848, no. 87, for 340 gns., bought in); Frederick George Brabazon Ponsonby, 6th Earl of Bessborough (1880–92; sale, March 14, 1891, no. 148, as "A Sunny River Scene," for 200 gns., bought in; sale, June, 1892, no. 66, for 200 gns. to Colnaghi); [Martin Colnaghi, London, from 1892]; [Sedelmeyer, Paris, in 1894; cat., 1894, no. 5]; Collis P. Huntington, New York (until d. 1900; life interest to his widow, Arabella D. Huntington, later [from 1913] Mrs. Henry E. Huntington, 1900–d. 1924; life interest to their son, Archer Milton Huntington, 1924–terminated in 1925)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Hudson-Fulton Celebration," September–November 1909, no. 7 (lent by Mrs. Collis P. Huntington, New York).

New York. Hunter College. "Dutch Celebration," April 27–May 11, 1953, no catalogue?

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

Inventory of the collection of the Earl of Bessborough. May 1826 [see Ref. Chong 1992], records it in the drawing room of the earl's Roehampton house.

John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 5, London, 1834, p. 306, no. 76, as "A Landscape, and cattle, &c."; records it as in the Bessborough collection in 1801.

Illustrated Catalogue of 100 Paintings of Old Masters . . . belonging to the Sedelmeyer Gallery. Paris, 1894, pp. 8–9, no. 5, ill., as "Pastoral Scene".

Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 2, London, 1909, p. 78, no. 238a, p. 102, no. 331.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1909, vol. 1, pp. xxxiv, 8, no. 7, ill. opp. p. 8, calls it an early work and dates it about 1640–50.

Joseph Breck. "L'art hollandais à l'exposition Hudson-Fulton à New York." L'art flamand & hollandais 13, no. 2 (1910), p. 61 [published in Dutch in Onze Kunst 17 (February 1910), p. 47].

Bryson Burroughs. "The Collis P. Huntington Collection Comes to the Museum." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 20 (June 1925), p. 142, ill. p. 146.

H[arry]. B. Wehle. "Notes on Paintings in the Huntington Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 20 (July 1925), p. 180.

Jerrold Holmes. "The Cuyps in America." Art in America 18 (June 1930), p. 182, no. 7.

A. J. Barnouw. Dutch Paintings: A Picture Book. New York, 1944, pl. 23, dates it about 1640–45.

Stephen Reiss. Letter to Elizabeth Gardner. May 4, 1952, judging from a photograph, attributes it to Cuyp's father, Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp.

Stephen Reiss. Aelbert Cuyp. Boston, 1975, pp. 9, 86–87, 96, 207, no. 51, ill., attributes it to the Cuyp studio and dates it 1640–45; finds features in the painting characteristic of the work of Aelbert's father, Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp; notes that the background landscape in this work and in two other landscapes (R52, private collection, The Netherlands; R61, John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art) is based on a drawing in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

J. G. van Gelder in Aelbert Cuyp en zijn familie, "schilders te Dordrecht": Gerrit Gerritsz. Cuyp, Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp, Benjamin Gerritsz. Cuyp, Aelbert Cuyp. Exh. cat., Dordrechts Museum. Dordrecht, 1977, p. 128 n. 1, under no. 48, repeats [see Ref. Reiss 1975] that the background landscape at left is based on a drawing by Aelbert Cuyp of about 1641–43 in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Yonna Yapou. "A Picture from Aelbert Cuyp's Transitional Phase." Burlington Magazine 123 (March 1981), pp. 160, 163 n. 15.

Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 191, remarks that it "is sometimes thought to be a collaboration between Albert and his father, Jacob Gerritsz.".

Frederik J. Duparc. Landscape in Perspective: Drawings by Rembrandt and His Contemporaries. Exh. cat., Arthur M. Sackler Museum. Cambridge, Mass., 1988, p. 88, fig. 1, under no. 21.

Walter Liedtke. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and Their Ideals." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1990, p. 37.

Alan Chong. "Aelbert Cuyp and the Meanings of Landscape." PhD diss., New York University, 1992, pp. 65, 179, 256, 297–98, no. 46.

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 137–40, 152, no. 31, colorpl. 31; vol. 2, p. 857 n. 16, dates it about 1643–44.

The background landscape at left is based on a drawing by Aelbert Cuyp of about 1641–43 (Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; inv. no. A3393).

A variant of the composition was sold at Christie's, New York, April 4, 1990, no. 203, as Circle of Aelbert Cuyp.
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