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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Esaias van de Velde, Dutch (Amsterdam, Netherlands 1587 - 1630 The Hague, Netherlands)
Shepherds and Sheep before a Rock
Work Type
c. 1615-16
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Brown ink on white antique laid paper, prepared with red chalk wash, laid down on antique laid paper
7.3 x 16.7 cm (2 7/8 x 6 9/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • collector's mark: mount, verso, upper right, purple ink, stamp: L. 2769c (E.H.L. Sexton)
  • inscription: former mat: ca. 1614--from a series
  • inscription: lower left, brown ink: Esaïas vanden Velde
  • collector's mark: former mount, now in current mat, purple ink, stamp: L. 2769c (E.H.L. Sexton)
  • watermark: none visible


Recorded Ownership History
Sir Henry Streathfield. [Schaeffer Galleries, New York] sold; to LeRoy M. Backus, Seattle; his estate, sold; [through Schaeffer Galleries, New York.] E. H. L. Sexton, New Canaan, CT, and Rockport, ME (L. 2769c, mount, verso, upper right). Philip and Frances L. Hofer, Cambridge (L. 2087a, without his mark); Bequest of Frances L. Hofer, 1979.62.

Published Text

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

Esaias van de Velde was the most original and influential Dutch landscapist of his generation. Born and trained in Amsterdam, Esaias settled by 1609 in Haarlem, where he joined the guild in 1612 and produced his earliest dated works in 1614. He moved to the Hague in 1618 and remained there for the rest of his life.2 In works on paper from the second decade of the seventeenth century, Esaias and his second cousin Jan van de Velde II perfected the type of “rustic landscape”—local, everyday scenery depicted in a plausibly naturalistic style—that first emerged around 1611–12 in the etchings of Claes Jansz. Visscher.3 The compositional schemes, restrained palette, and lively brushwork of Esaias’s paintings exercised a formative influence on the work of his pupil Jan van Goyen and other younger artists, including Pieter de Molijn and Salomon van Ruysdael.

Shepherds and Sheep before a Rock belongs to a group of at least twenty-five landscapes on paper toned with red-chalk wash. All measure—or originally measured—approximately 75 × 170 mm and are executed in brown ink supplemented, in some instances, with brown wash.4 Twelve drawings in the group are attributable to Esaias van de Velde, and thirteen to Jan van de Velde II.5 That Esaias executed the Harvard work is confirmed by its reproduction, in reverse, in an undated suite of six landscape etchings published by Claes Jansz. Visscher (Fig. 1).6 The first plate in the series credits “Esaijas vanden Velde” as designer. Two other compositions by Esaias from the group on reddish toned paper provided models for etchings in this set, but the drawings reproduced in the other three plates have not come to light.7 The prints measure 96 × 172 mm, about 20 mm taller than the three related drawings. Although he added some heavy-handed shading in places, the unidentified etcher conveyed something of the spirited, summary pen work of the originals.

The landscapes on reddish toned paper seem to constitute a discrete and coherent group. Their similar sizes, imagery, and fully resolved compositions can hardly be coincidental, and the two artists did not, as far as we know, make other drawings on paper prepared with red-chalk wash, nor was this a common practice in Dutch art of the period. Questions remain regarding the dating, function, and original context of the group. George S. Keyes convincingly placed the works by Esaias van de Velde around 1615–16, citing their affinities in composition and linear vocabulary to a series of ten etched landscapes of oblong format, which he assigned to the same period, and a drawing signed and dated 1616 (Fig. 2).8 It is likely that Jan van de Velde’s drawings on reddish paper originated at the same time, and not a decade later, as J. G. van Gelder proposed.9 Whatever their original context, it is doubtful that these sheets belonged to one or more sketchbooks.10 Despite their seemingly spontaneous pen work, they are as deliberately composed and neatly executed as Esaias’s finished drawing of 1616 (see Fig. 2) and the prints from about 1615–16. Several depict invented scenery that could not have been studied from nature.11

Finally, we should take note of an imaginary coastal landscape attributed to Hendrick Goltzius, which is executed in brown ink on a sheet toned with red-chalk wash and of the same dimensions as the drawings by the Van de Veldes. Goltzius’s work has been dated to about 1595 and may have provided a model for the Van de Velde group.12 Jan van de Velde studied in Haarlem with Goltzius’s stepson, Jacob Matham, so he could have known the drawing.


1 (This note refers to the provenance.) See the Schaeffer Gallery Archives at the Getty Research Institute, Box 71*, where Sir Henry Streathfield is listed as a prior owner. This individual may be the same as Col. Sir Henry Streatfeild, Chiddingstone, Kent.

2 Irene van Thiel-Stroman in Peter Biesboer and Neeltje Köhler, eds., Painting in Haarlem 1500–1850: The Collection of the Frans Hals Museum (Ghent, 2006), p. 314.

3 For the term rustic landscape, and for the contributions of Esaias van de Velde and Jan van de Velde II to its development, see Walter S. Gibson, Pleasant Places: The Rustic Landscape from Bruegel to Ruisdael (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 2000), pp. xxiii–xxviii, 43–44, and 46–47.

4 All but one of the twelve drawings attributed to Esaias van de Velde (see n. 5) measure about 75 × 170 mm. One (George S. Keyes, Esaias van de Velde 1587–1630, Doornspijk, 1984, cat. D 113, p. 250) now measures 74 × 150 mm and has presumably been trimmed on one or both sides. The drawings by Jan van de Velde (see n. 5) all measure about 75 × 170 mm as well.

5 To my knowledge, twenty-five drawings on reddish prepared paper are known today. Those attributable to Esaias van de Velde are: Keyes, pp. 53–54, and cats. D 82, D 105, D 109, D 113, D 121–D 123, D 154, D 173, D 178, and two others (not in Keyes) sold at Sotheby’s, Amsterdam, 17 November 1993, lots 105 and 106. For the drawings by Jan van de Velde, see Jan Gerrit van Gelder, Jan van de Velde, 1593–1641, (The Hague, 1933), cats. 33–36, 44–46, 61, 62, and 71; Jan Gerrit van Gelder, “Jan van de Velde 1593–1641: Teekenaar-schilder, Addenda I,” in Oud Holland, vol. 70 (1955): 21–40, pp. 28–29, repr. fig. 7; Jan Gerrit van Gelder, “Drawings by Jan van de Velde,” Master Drawings, vol. 5, no. 1 (Spring 1967): 39–41, p. 40 and repr. pl. 30; Horst Vey, Sammlung Herbert Girardet: Holländische und flämische Meister (Cologne: Wallraf-Richartz-Museum; Rotterdam: Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 1970), cat. 104; and Keyes, p. 54 (n. 32).

6 For the series, see Keyes, cats. A 65–A 70, pp. 243– 44; and Hollstein, vol. 32, nos. 18– 23, pp. 290–93. Etchings. 96 × 172 mm. The print after the Harvard drawing (unidentified etcher, after Esaias van de Velde, Shepherds and Sheep before a Rock, Fig. 1) is the sixth plate in the set; Keyes, cat. A 70, p. 343; and Hollstein, vol. 32, no. 23, p. 293. Some impressions of etchings in this suite are printed on blue paper. Nancy Bialler (Chiaroscuro Woodcuts: Hendrick Goltzius [1558–1617] and His Time, Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum; Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1992, p. 192, fig. 110) reproduces an impression on blue paper of the plate after the Harvard drawing.

7 Keyes, cats. D 105 and D 109.

8 Keyes, pp. 53–54, under cat. D 82, p. 239, and under cat. D 105, p. 247. See the drawing, Esaias van de Velde, Road to Left of Woods (Fig. 2), 1616. Brown ink. 130 × 253 mm. Signed and dated. Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, N 2805. Keyes, cat. D 160; Annette Strech in Annette Strech, with Jutta Schütt, Martin Sonnabend, and Margaret Stuffmann, “Nach dem Leben und aus der Phantasie”: Niederländische Zeichnungen vom 15. bis 18. Jahrhundert aus dem Städelschen Kunstinstitut (Frankfurt am Main: Städelsches Kunstinstitut, 2000), cat. 42, p. 106, repr. p. 107. The series of ten prints is in Keyes, cats. E 10–E 19; and Hollstein, vol. 32, nos. 18–27, pp. 256–66.

9 J. G. Van Gelder (1933, cats. 31, 36, and 62) dated the drawings on reddish toned paper by Jan van de Velde II to the middle of the 1620s, in part because Jan reproduced three of them as illustrations in a songbook, Amsterdamsche Pegasus (Hollstein, vol. 33, nos. 445–54). Their reproduction in the songbook, published in 1627, establishes a terminus ante quem for the drawings, but does not preclude an earlier execution date. In my view they must, like those by Esaias, have originated around 1616, and presumably before Esaias moved to the Hague in 1618.

10 J. G. Van Gelder, Haverkamp-Begemann, and Keyes all assume the drawings belonged to one or more sketchbooks. See Van Gelder (1933), pp. 60–61; Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, Willem Buytewech (Amsterdam, 1959), p. 40; and Keyes, pp. 53–54, and under cat. D 82, p. 239, cat. D 105, pp. 246–47, cat. D 109, p. 249, cat. D 113, p. 250, cats. D 121–D 123, p. 253, cat. D 154, p. 263, cat. D 173, p. 269, and cat. D 178, p. 270. Schapelhouman and Schatborn do not mention a sketchbook context in their entry on one of the drawings by Jan van de Velde. See Marijn Schapelhouman and Peter Schatborn, Dutch Drawings of the Seventeenth Century in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam: Artists Born between 1580 and 1600; Catalogue of Dutch and Flemish drawings in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Vol. 6. (Amsterdam and London, 1998), vol. 1, under cat. 346, p. 161.

11 Among the drawings by Jan van de Velde II is a view of Düren (Van Gelder, 1933, cat. 33), but other drawings in the group (such as Van Gelder’s cat. 45) are clearly imaginary scenes.

12 Emil Karel Reznicek, “Drawings by Hendrick Goltzius, Thirty Years Later: Supplement to the 1961 catalogue raisonné,” Master Drawings, vol. 31, no. 3 (Autumn 1993): 215–78, cat. 408a, p. 260, repr. fig. 59. The drawing measures 75 × 173 mm, and is executed in brown ink on pink prepared paper. Reznicek states that E. Haverkamp-Begemann noted in conversation the close association of the drawing by Goltzius and the Van de Velde landscapes on prepared paper.


Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Frances L. Hofer
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Schaeffer Galleries Bulletin, auct. cat. (New York, November 1948), cat. no. 57, n.p.
  • F. W. H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings, and woodcuts, ca. 1450-1700., Menno Hertzberger (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1949-2010), vol. 32, under no. 23, p. 293
  • Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, "Willem Buytewech" (Thesis, Utrecht University, 1959), H. Hertzberger, pp. 40 and 217-18 (n. 210)
  • Handzeichnungen alter und neuerer Meister. Neue Lagerliste., auct. cat., C. G. Boerner (Düsseldorf, 1962), under no. 175, p. 88
  • The Draughtsman at Work. Drawing in the Golden Century of Dutch Art, checklist (unpublished, 1980), no. 6
  • Fogg Art Museum, Fogg Art Museum Annual Report, 1978-1980 (Cambridge, MA, 1982), p. 144
  • George S. Keyes, Esaias van de Velde 1587-1630, Davaco Publishers (Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1984), cat. no. D 154, pp. 53-54 and 236, under cat. no. D 105, pp. 246-7, and under cat. no. A 70, p. 344, repr. pl. 17
  • Eunice Williams, Master Drawings and Watercolors: The Hofer Collection, exh. cat., ed. Konrad Oberhuber and William W. Robinson, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, 1984), cat. no. 14, p. 26, repr. pp. 89 and 10
  • Dutch, Flemish and German Drawings, including the H. R. Bijl Collection, auct. cat. (Amsterdam, November 17, 1993), under lot 105, p. 65
  • 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. 17; cat. no. 88, pp. 293-295, repr. p. 294
  • Joanna Sheers Seidenstein and Susan Anderson, ed., Crossroads: Drawing the Dutch Landscape, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, 2022), pp. 66, 232, repr. p. 66 as fig. F

Exhibition History

  • Unidentified Exhibition, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1941, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 11/30/1941
  • Old Master Drawings (from the collection of LeRoy Backus, Seattle), Portland Art Museum, 01/16/1946 - 02/28/1946
  • The Backus Collection, Schaeffer Galleries, New York, 01/01/1948 - 12/31/1948
  • The Draughtsman at Work. Drawing in the Golden Century of Dutch Art, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 11/21/1980 - 01/04/1981
  • Master Drawings and Watercolors: The Hofer Collection, Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, 04/15/1984 - 07/07/1984; Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/05/1984 - 11/29/1984
  • Crossroads: Drawing the Dutch Landscape, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2022 - 08/14/2022

Subjects and Contexts

  • Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings

Verification Level

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