The present picture is a fine example of a winter landscape by van der Neer, a speciality he developed probably under the influence of the work of Hendrick Avercamp. The present work is to be dated c. 1650-60 on grounds of the style of costume worn by the elegant couple in the foreground. It is likely that the rendering of the figures was influenced by Jan van Goyen; the manner is echoed in works executed at this time by the younger Amsterdam artist Jan Beerstraten. Van der Neer had only taken up painting after he settled in Amsterdam in the early 1630s, at which time his style reflected that of his earlier fellow denizens of Gorinchem, the brothers Camphuysen.
The view depicted has not been identified, indeed it may well be imaginary. Christopher Brown has recently pointed out (The National Gallery Catalogue, The Dutch School, revised ed., London, 1991, under no. 732) that van der Neer 'rarely depicted actual places'.
A notable characteristic of van der Neer's art was his ability to render natural light (a speciality he was to develop was the moonlit view presumably under the indirect influence of Elsheimer, see lot 17). In the present picture, he depicts a roseate sunset - a Dutch answer to the work of Claude, then active in Rome.
An extensive Winter Landscape with an elegant Couple, a Child and a Dog on a Path in the foreground, Skaters, Kolf Players and a Child pushing a Sledge on the Ice, a farmhouse nearby, a church beyond
Oil on panel, unframed
PROPERTY OF THE LATE SIR HAROLD WERNHER, BT., G.C.V.O.
Signed with two monograms 'AV' and 'DN'
Aert van der Neer
(Probably) London, British Institution, 1867, no. 89.
London, Royal Academy, Works by the Old Masters, Jan.-March 1893, no. 63.
London, Guildhall, 1894, no. 77.
London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Pictures by Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century, 1900, no. 26.
London, Royal Academy, Dutch Pictures 1450-1750, 22 Nov. 1952-1 March 1953, no. 427.
18 1/8 x 27 5/8in. (46.2 x 70.2cm.)
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné, etc., VII, London, 1923, pp. 444-5, no. 506.
The Holford Collection: Dorchester House, Oxford, 1927, II, p. 33, no. 158, pl. CXLIII.
Captain Helben (according to catalogue of the 1952-3 Royal Academy exhibition).
Said to have been acquired from Beckford in 1839 (presumably William Beckford 1759-1849 of Landsdown Tower, Bath) by Robert Stayner Holford, who inherited £1,000,000 from an uncle in 1838 and made his renowned collection between c. 1840 and 1860 (see Dictionary of National Biography, Missing Persons, ed. C.S. Nicholas, Oxford, 1993; G.F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, II, London, 1854, pp. 193-4, recorded his visit to Holford's collection, then housed in Russell Square, London, but did not then record the present picture; at that time Holford was rebuilding Dorchester House in Park Lane, London, where his collection was later to be housed).
By inheritance to Sir George Lindsay Holford; Christie's, 17 May 1928, lot 25 (3,500gns. to Leggatt).