This scene of fishermen casting their net in front of a moated fortress catered to a taste for picturesque and ancient architecture. Working on the smooth surface of an oak panel allowed Van Goyen to achieve a variety of painterly effects and enliven a limited color palette as he evoked crumbling masonry, rippling water, or cottony clouds. Although the artist studied medieval monuments in preparing such scenes, the castle shown here is imaginary, pieced together from both observation and fantasy.
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Title:Castle by a River
Artist:Jan van Goyen (Dutch, Leiden 1596–1656 The Hague)
Medium:Oil on wood
Dimensions:26 x 38 1/4 in. (66 x 97.2 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Edith Neuman de Végvár, in honor of her husband, Charles Neuman de Végvár, 1964
In this splendidly preserved picture Van Goyen fully exploited the hardwood surface to set off the rich textures of his paint strokes, touches, and dabs. The shadowy, overgrown wall to the right, for example, is one of the most attractive areas of the painting despite its peripheral part in the composition. The work is remarkable for the warmth of its brown and yellow tones, with rose and salmon colors throughout the cloudy sky.
The subject and composition recall Van Goyen's many views of Nijmegen, which date from 1633 to the late 1640s, but the fort here, with its Romanesque bell tower, improbable portals, and asymmetrical façade, is surely imaginary. Three figures peer over the ramparts, looking at the fishing boats below. In the boat to the far left, two men pay out a net before a glistening sheet of water, which recedes to a pale green profile of distant farms, trees, and sailboats on the opposite shore.
Comparison with a smaller panel of the same date in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, reveals the ease with which Van Goyen modified architectural motifs. In the Bordeaux picture, the tall tower and (curiously) the other tower and the roofs within the fort recall the Oude Kerk in Delft, as seen in a drawing by Van Goyen of about 1640–45 (Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin).
The Met's picture was engraved by the amateur artist and director of the Koninklijk Museum (later Rijksmuseum) in Amsterdam, Cornelis Apostool, in his series of aquatints, Beauties of the Dutch School, Selected from Interesting Pictures of Admired Landscape Painters, London, 1792–93.
[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left, on boat): V Goyen 1647
?private collection, England (in 1792); ?private collection (until 1912; estate sale, Christie's, London, April 26, 1912, no. 102, as "The Castle and Town of Nimeguen," for £1,050 to Pawsey & Payne]; ?[Pawsey & Payne, London, from 1912]; Sir Samuel Hoare, London (until 1934; sale, Sotheby's, London, November 21, 1934, no. 99, as "River Scene with a turreted water castle on the right," for £610 to Collings); [Galerie Sanct Lucas, Vienna, in 1935; sold to Neuman]; Baron Karl Neuman (Charles Neuman de Végvár), Vienna, later Greenwich, Conn. (by 1938–d. 1959; seized in Paris by the Nazis, held at Alt Aussee [1080/2] and at Munich collecting point , returned to France October 30, 1946; restituted); his widow, Mrs. Charles (Edith) Neuman de Végvár, Greenwich (1959–64; life interest, 1964–d. 1984)
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.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "In Praise of Painting: Dutch Masterpieces at The Met," October 16, 2018–October 4, 2020, no catalogue.
Cornelis Apostool. Beauties of the Dutch School, Selected from Interesting Pictures of Admired Landscape Painters. London, 1792–93, ill. in reverse (aquatint).
[Claus Virch]. Paintings in the Collection of Charles and Edith Neuman de Végvár. [New York], , p. 8.
Hans-Ulrich Beck. Jan van Goyen, 1596–1656. Vol. 2, Katalog der Gemälde. Amsterdam, 1973, p. 314, no. 687, ill.
Hans-Ulrich Beck. Jan van Goyen, 1596–1656. Vol. 3, Ergänzungen zum Katalog der Handzeichnungen und Ergänzungen zum Katalog der Gemälde. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1987, p. 226, no. 687, notes that a very similar composition by Salomon van Ruysdael was sold at auction in 1978.
Olivier Le Bihan. L'Or & l'ombre: catalogue critique et raisonné des peintures hollandaises du dix-septième et du dix-huitième siècles, conservées au Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux. Bordeaux, 1990, pp. 122–23, ill., under no. 30.
Peter C. Sutton in Ben Broos. "Recent Patterns of Public and Private Collecting of Dutch Art." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis. The Hague, 1990, p. 105.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 306, ill.
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 236, 238–39, no. 53, colorpl. 53.
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