The Wallace Collection

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Shipping on the Maas, Dordrecht
  • Aelbert Cuyp (1620 - 1691)
  • Shipping on the Maas, Dordrecht
  • Netherlands
  • early 1650s
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 100 x 151.9 cm
  • Signature: 'A.cüÿp.'
  • P49
  • East Galleries II
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • In this majestic painting, Aelbert Cuyp (1620-1691) depicts the Maas, the busy inland waterway that connected his native Dordrect (visible on the right) to Rotterdam. Of the numerous vessels that ply its waters, from a merchant vessel in the distance to a small rowing boat in the left foreground, it is the large passenger ferry or ‘wijdschip’ that dominates the composition. This ferry ran a regular service between Dordrecht and Rotterdam and was one of Cuyp’s favourite subjects. A similar composition can be seen at the Royal Collection, for example.
    Cuyp displays here his great skill in depicting light and atmosphere. It is dated to the early 1650s, when Cuyp infused his paintings with the soft, warm light favoured be the Dutch Italianate painters of Utrecht, such as Jan Both (P28 an P198) The light falls on the sail of the ferry, and picks up white highlights on the water. The low horizon allows him to devote much of the composition to the swirling pattern of the clouds, which give a sense that they are scudding across in the sky in a strong wind.
    Cuyp more often depicted vessels in calm water, but on this occasion he depicted a more animated, almost stormy scene. The sail of the ferry is filled with a strong breeze and it throws up spray as it ploughs through choppy waters. Cuyp may have been inspired by contemporary seascapes by Jan van Goyen, which represented a ship being tossed by a breeze. Despite the buffeting breeze, Cuyp maintains an overall sense of calm and dignity to this everyday scene. This is largely due to the monumental structure of the sail and rigging of the ferry, echoed by the tower of the Great Church of Dordrecht and the Dutch merchant vessel in the distance. The artist adds a touch of humour and human interest to the painting with the actions of his characteristically comic little figures. On the left, the figures heave the oars of the little rowing boat, while the ferry’s passengers pass the time with conversation and drinking beer.