This scene is a hive of activity. To the left, farmers transport cows across the river in two flat-bottomed boats, while on the shore to the right we see a washerwoman at work and other figures in boats, and further to the right a horse and cart make their way along the village street. Even the surface of the farmhouse that forms the central focus of the scene is animated, in its dilapidation. Throughout, the handling of light brilliantly adds to the action.
Van Goyen certainly made this drawing in the studio, as a finished work of art for sale, and would have based his composition on other, sketchier drawings, made on the spot. Not only is it signed and dated (his working sketches generally are not), but it also retains the original framing lines and broad, blank margins that many finished 17th-century Dutch landscape drawings would originally have possessed, but which were, as Robert-Jan te Rijdt has noted, almost always removed by 18th-century mounters of drawings.1 Generally, these margins only survive on drawings that remained for a long time in one collection, presumably housed in albums, like the group of drawings from the collection formed around 1700 by Pieter van de Brande, which remained in the Van Pallandt family until they were auctioned in 1972.2
The present drawing emerged at auction in much the same way in 1967, from the old Dutch collection of the Repelaer family. It was sold at that time together with seven other large drawings by Van Goyen, all, like this, dated 1653, and all equally well preserved, with their original margins. The eight drawings, all particularly fine works, must have remained together ever since they were made.3 They all also bear the same type of numberings in brown ink in the top right margin, presumably those of a dealer or collector. Two of the drawings from the group are now in the Abrams Collection4, one belongs to Clement C. Moore5, and others are in private collections in Europe and the United States.
1. R.J.A. te Rijdt, in Kleur en Raffinement, Tekeningen uit de Unicorno collectie, exhib. cat., Amsterdam, Museum het Rembrandthuis, and Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum, 1994-5, p. 92, under cat. no. 39
2. Sale, Amsterdam, Mak van Waay, 26 September 1972
3. The others are Beck, op. cit., nos. 356, 357, 372, 389, 390, 434 and 555
4. Beck, op. cit., nos. 356 and 555; William W. Robinson, Bruegel to Rembrandt, Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exhib. cat., London, British Museum, Paris, Institut Néerlandais, and Cambrige, Mass., Fogg Art Museum, 2002-3, nos. 18 and 19
5. Beck, op. cit., no. 389; J.S. Turner, Rembrandt’s World. Dutch Drawings from the Clement C. Moore Collection, exhib. cat., New York, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2012, no. 25
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