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Identification and Creation
Object Number
2015.169
People
Esaias van de Velde, Dutch (Amsterdam, Netherlands 1587 - 1630 The Hague, Netherlands)
Title
Farms and a Dovecote by a Frozen River; verso: River Scene with a Ferry
Classification
Drawings
Work Type
drawing
Date
c. 1617-1618
Culture
Dutch
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/212693
Location
Level 3, Room 3600, University Research Gallery
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Black chalk on off-white antique laid paper; verso: black chalk counterproof, possibly worked up in black chalk
Dimensions
18.5 x 30.5 cm (7 5/16 x 12 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • watermark: Strasbourg Lily with reversed 4 and WR below; variant of Heawood 1769 (Schieland, 1616)
Provenance
[Alfred Brod Gallery, London], sold; to Maida and George Abrams, Boston, 1969; The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2015.

Published Text
Catalogue
Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums
Authors
William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson
Publisher
Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016)

Catalogue entry no. 89 by William W. Robinson:

Farms and a Dovecote by a Frozen River, which dates from about 1617–18, is an early example of Esaias van de Velde’s innovative use of black chalk for a summary sketch of a landscape.1 Although Van de Velde was not the first Dutch artist to draw landscapes in black chalk, George S. Keyes rightly underscored the originality and influence of his technique. Following the lead of Esaias, countless landscapists—including Jan van Goyen (1965.204), Pieter de Molijn (2011.514), and Jacob van Ruisdael (2008.251 )—favored the medium for both quick sketches and finished compositions.2

The drawing served as the basis for a more finished version of the same scene executed in black chalk and gray wash (Fig. 1).3 The latter work is only marginally larger than the Harvard sheet, and Esaias introduced few changes to the design. He reduced the large tree in the right foreground and worked up the sky with long, horizontal strokes of the chalk. The deployment of the wash to define areas of shading and solidify the modeling of the forms lends to the second version a more pronounced effect of space and depth. Whether Esaias routinely followed this process to develop his finished drawings is not clear. The survival of the Harvard sketch and the Berlin work in Figure 1 constitutes a rare instance in his oeuvre in which both preliminary and definitive versions of the same composition have come down to us.4

Keyes identified the urban skyline in the center distance as that of Haarlem, which is recognizable by its most prominent feature, the church of Saint Bavo.5 Esaias lived in Haarlem until 1618. During that year, he moved to the Hague, where he spent the rest of his life.6

The black-chalk counterproof on the verso of the sheet evidently records, in reverse, a lost composition by the artist (Fig. 2). Although in places indistinct and partially obscured by the blotchy offset of black chalk at the right, it shows a town on a river or other body of water, its banks lined with houses and a mill. In the center foreground, a ferry transports human and bovine passengers to the opposite shore, and other rowing boats approach the bank at the left. Beyond the ferry, the masts and riggings of larger vessels rise to the right of a large tree, and in the distance, more buildings are visible.

Notes

1 George S. Keyes, Esaias van de Velde 1587–1630 (Doornspijk, 1984), under cat. D 69, p. 234, dates the related Berlin drawing (see n. 3 below) to circa 1617–18.

2 Ibid., pp. 34–35 and 73–74; George S. Keyes, “Esaias van de Velde and the Chalk Sketch,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek (1987), vol. 38: 136–45, pp. 140–43.

3 Esaias van de Velde, Farms and a Dovecote by a Frozen River (Fig. 1). Black chalk and gray wash. 198 × 310 mm. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, KdZ 3846. Keyes (1984), cat. D 69, p. 234.

4 Ibid., under cat. D 70, p. 235.

5 Ibid., under cat. D 69, p. 234.

6 J. G. C. A. Briels in ibid., p. 24.

Figures
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Gift of George Abrams in honor of Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann
Accession Year
2015
Object Number
2015.169
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Curtis O. Baer, ed., Seventeenth Century Dutch Landscape Drawings and Selected Prints from American Collections, exh. cat., Vassar College Art Gallery (Poughkeepsie, NY, 1976), cat. no. 7, p. 28, repr.

George S. Keyes, Esaias van de Velde 1587-1630, Davaco Publishers (Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1984), cat. no. D 70, pp. 51 and 234-5, repr. pl. 73

Frederik J. Duparc, Landscape in Perspective: Drawings by Rembrandt and his Contemporaries, exh. cat., The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montreal, 1988), cat. no. 90, p. 211, repr.

William W. Robinson, Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exh. cat., H. O. Zimman, Inc. (Lynn, MA, 1991), cat. no. 28, pp. 74-75, repr.

William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson, Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016), p. 20; cat. no. 89, pp. 296-298, repr. p. 297 (recto) and p. 298 (verso) as fig. 2; watermark p. 382

Exhibition History

Seventeenth Century Dutch Landscape Drawings and Selected Prints from American Collections, Vassar College Art Gallery, Poughkeepsie, 03/28/1976 - 05/07/1976

Landscape in Perspective: Drawings by Rembrandt and his Contemporaries, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/20/1988 - 04/03/1988; The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, 04/15/1988 - 05/29/1988

Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 02/23/1991 - 04/18/1991; Albertina Gallery, Vienna, 05/16/1991 - 06/30/1991; The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 01/22/1992 - 04/22/1992; Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/10/1992 - 12/06/1992

Abrams 50th reunion exhibition, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/01/2004 - 06/14/2004

Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

Crossroads: Drawing the Dutch Landscape, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2022 - 08/14/2022

Subjects and Contexts

Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu