Marquis de Biencourt;
Gustave Rothan, Paris, 1874;
His sale, Paris, May 29-31, 1890, no. 98, for 8,000 Francs (as "A View of Dordrecht");
Adolphe Schloss, Paris and by descent (looted in WWII and later restituted);
Schloss sale, Paris, Galerie Charpentier, May 25, 1949, no. 54, reproduced pl. XXXVIII, for 2,100,000 Francs (as "A view of Weesp");
Where purchased by the mother of the present owner.
A River Vew with the Town of Weesp is a wonderfully fresh and spirited painting from Salomon Ruysdael's maturity. After 1640 he abandoned the restricted palette of his "tonal phase" and painted in a wider range of colors and brighter hues. He also adopted a somewhat more expansive viewpoint for his river landscapes, spreading out and opening up the compositions. Here he paints Weesp, a town to the southeast of Amsterdam located at the intersection of the Vecht and Smal Weesp Rivers. It was an important part of the defensive lines of Holland from the Middle Ages onward.
This is one of four known views of Weesp by Ruysdael. Here he paints the town from the north, the Grote Kerk visible at the left and, at the center of the composition, the twin towers of the city gate. Another view of Weesp, datable to around 1667, in the Frick Collection, New York is shown from a greater distance, so that a spit of land at the left, populated with trees and figures, stands between us and the city, narrowing our viewpoint. Here instead we see the larger expanse of water where the Vecht meets the Smal Weesp. It is late afternoon and the sun is low in the sky, illuminating the town and a narrow band of water before it, while leaving the sailboat at the right completely in shadow. A brisk wind has come up, pushing the clouds off to the west and creating choppy little whitecaps on the river.
Ruysdael's handling of the brush is enormously confident. He paints the sky in long, thick strokes and adds the clouds on top -- thick puffy cumulous clouds that tail off to the right until they disappear into the blue. It is the work of an artist in full possession of his powers.
A note on the provenance
The first recorded owner of A River View with the Town of Weesp was the Marquis de Biencourt, presumably Charles de Biencourt (1747-1824), a soldier and a member of the Estates General, who in 1791 purchased the famous Château d'Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire. It was later acquired by Gustave Rothan (1822-1900), a diplomat and author, whose picture collection was famous in Paris in the 1870s.
The painting was subsequently acquired by Adolphe Schloss (1842-1911), who, at the turn of the twentieth century had perhaps the greatest collection of Dutch and Flemish art in France. Born in Austria, he emigrated to France and became a citizen in 1871. He made his money as a broker for department stores in France and America and as a purveyor to the Russian court. His collection numbered 333 paintings, which he installed in his house at 38, avenue Henri-Martin. It included, among other works by The Lamentation by Petrus Christus, now in the Louvre and paintings by Isenbrandt, Gossaert, Rubens, Hals, Jacob and Salomon Ruysdael and several paintings then attributed to Rembrandt.
At his death in 1911, the collection passed to his widow Lucie and his four children, who carefully tended it in Paris. However, in 1939 they moved all the paintings to the Chậteau de Chambon, near Tulle in central France, to protect it from possible German air raids. After the Germans invaded France, the authorities singled out the Schloss collection as a source for paintings for both Hitler and Göring. The story of how the Nazis achieved their goals is a tale of informants, intrigue and the betrayal of the Jewish owners, and on November 27, 1943, 262 paintings were sent to Germany; 49 remained in Paris under the protection of the Louvre.
After World War II, the Allies recovered a part of the collection and returned the paintings to France. Together with the pictures that had been kept in the Louvre, 162 works were restituted to the family. In 1949 the River View with the Town of Weesp was included in the first of three auctions by the Schoss heirs, where it was acquired by the family of the present owner.
1. Stechow (see Literature) does not give a location, but in 1874 Gustave Rohan organized an exhibition at the Palais Bourbon for the benefit of the inhabitants of Alsace-Lorrain.
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