Although unknown to Birgit Schumacher when compiling her recent monograph on the artist, this composition may be compared with a slightly larger painting now in The Hague, Schilderijenzaal Willem V, inv. no. 222, which Schumacher dates to circa 1642-43.1 The compositional similarities of the present work with the picture in The Hague, with the densely wooded bank to the left, a small group of figures saddling a horse in the centre, and a silhouetted dog overlooking an extensive landscape to the right, together with the subdued palette, prominent figures and form of the monogram, all point to a similarly early date of execution for this work; probably, as Dr. Schumacher has suggested in private correspondence, in 1643 or shortly afterwards. This aforementioned compositional formula was much favoured by Wouwerman in the early 1640s and repeats itself in a number of other works from this date; see, for example, his Halt of two Riders in Zurich, Kunsthaus.2 Dr. Schumacher points to the rather more developed background landscape in the present work as evidence of its having been painted slightly later than both paintings in The Hague and Zurich.
Wouwerman's early paintings have often been misunderstood and it is only relatively recently that a fuller understanding has been achieved. Many works dating from the early 1640s were previously attributed to Pieter van Laer, which is perhaps forgivable if, as Houbraken recounts, Wouwerman acquired many of Van Laer's drawings after the latter's death in 1642 and used them as the basis for his own paintings. Certainly, the present work strongly manifests Van Laer's influence, as do those in The Hague and Zurich, and this lends further support to the early dating of this panel.
We are grateful to Dr. Birgit Schumacher for endorsing the attribution to Wouwerman on the basis of a transparency. This work will be included in Dr. Schumacher's forthcoming supplement to her 2006 catalogue of the works of Philips Wouwerman.
1. See B. Schumacher, Philips Wouwerman: the horse painter of the Golden Age, Doornspijk 2006, vol. I, p. 242, no. A181, reproduced vol. II, plate 170.
2. Schumacher, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 306-7, no. A340, reproduced vol. II, plates 41 and 312.