signed lower left: A cuijp.
One of the sons of King George III, possibly Prince Frederick Augustus, Duke of York, Duke of Albany and Earl of Ulster (1763-1827), as per a wax seal on the reverse;
Probably A.E.H. Digby;
His deceased sale, London, Sotheby's, 20 June 1951, lot 6, for £140 to Fraenkel;
With Baruch Steinitz, Paris, from whom bought by Saam and Lily Nijstad at the Paris Biennale 2006.
Most of the paintings of domestic animals in interiors produced by the Cuyp family are asignable to Aelbert's father Jacob Gerritsz. Like his father, Aelbert painted a few studies of poultry, including one, a portrait of a twenty-year old duck named Sijetghen, which he signed and dated 1647.1 Father and son often collaborated in the family workshop, so that Aelbert incorporated into his magnificent Orpheus and the Animals of circa 1640 in the Van Otterloo collection two jaguars, one directly based on a study of two Jaguars painted by his father in 1639.2 Aelbert also painted a very few stable interiors, incorporating still life elements comparable to the ones seen in the present work. A good example is the work of circa 1645-8 in the Dordrechts Museum.3
The Nijstad painting is therefore a rare example of this subject by Aelbert Cuyp. Works such as this were however most influential on the succeeding generation of painters in Dordrecht: Jan van Ravensteyn, whose speciality was barn and stable interiors, and Abraham Calraet, a versatile if not strikingly original painter whose still lifes in his barn interiors are strongly influenced by the rich fluid handling that we see in Aelbert Cuyp's work.
A very similar ewe to the one reposing nearest to us was used by an anonymous follower of Cuyp in the foreground of a large canvas Portrait of Three Sisters with Five Sheep and a distant view of Rhenen formerly in the Wantage Collection, Lockinge.4
We are most grateful to Dr Alan Chong for confirming Aelbert Cuyp's authorship upon first-hand inspection of the original which he knew only from photographs until recently. Dr Chong intends to include this work in his planned catalogue raisonné of Aelbert Cuyp's paintings. We are also grateful to Drs Fred Meijer, author of the chapter on Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp as a painter of still lifes and animal pieces in the catalogue of the Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp exhibition in Dordrecht, for endorsing the attribution to Aelbert.
The four-horned ram has been identified as of the ancient breed Jacob's Sheep, after the Old Testament Patriarch Jacob. Genesis 30 records one of the earliest examples of selective breeding when Jacob takes every speckled sheep and goat from the flock of Laban, his father-in-law, in order to breed them. The Linnean name for the breed, Ovis aries, makes explicit this link between goats and sheep. Although Jacob's Sheep have a pair of lower horns curled at least to a semi-circle, and a pair of upper horns rising on a gentle parabola, as we see here, they are usually spotted (indeed the Breeders' Association insist upon this), and the ewes also have four horns. A plausible alternative is the Churra. This is a Spanish breed which was traded around Europe and also taken to the American colonies in 1514. They can be black, brown or white and the rams often have four horns, while the ewes tend to be hornless, as here. The ram has the curly wool seen here below the horns, unlike the Jacob's Sheep, and the ewes have the same high forehead and cranial 'dent' vertically down the centre of the face that we see here.
1. Private collection. See F.G. Meijer, in S. Paarlberg (ed/), Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp, exhibition catalogue, Dordrecht 2002, p. 71, reproduced fig. 79.
2. See A. Chong, in A.K. Wheelock Jr., Aelbert Cuyp, exhibition catalogue, Washington 2001, pp. 88-91, no. 1, reproduced (Aelbert Cuyp), and AN, in S. Paarlberg, op. cit., p. 128, no. 23, reproduced. Aelbert Cuyp incorporated the same Jaguar in another undated Orpheus in Dessau, Anhaltinische Gemäldegalerie (reproduced by Chong, op. cit., fig, 1).
3. See A. Chong, op. cit., p. 122, no. 15, reproduced.
4. see A. Chong, Aelbert Cuyp and the meaning of landscape, diss., New York 1992, p. 484, no C106.
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