Lot 71
  • 71

Nicolaes Pietersz. Berchem

100,000 - 150,000 USD
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  • Nicolaes Pietersz. Berchem
  • A Mountainous Italianate Landscape with Milkmaids and Other Figures
  • signed and dated lower right:  N.Berchem 1670 10/23
  • oil on canvas


Presented by King George IV to Alderman Benjamin West on the occassion of the latter's arrival at Kingston, Ireland;
His sale (Truly Capital Collection of Italian, French, Flemish and Dutch Pictures), London, Christie's, 24 June 1820, lot 84;
Where purchased for £472.10 by Williams for Farrer;
With W.D. Farrer, London, by whom sold for £420 in 1858;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 4 July 1924, lot 87;
Anonymous sale (The Property of a Gentleman), London, Sotheby's, 10 July 1968, lot 107;
With Chaucer Fine Arts, Ltd., London;
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 16 May 1996, lot 81.


C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, vol. IX, London 1912, no. 225.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com , an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting has been recently restored and looks very well as a result. The canvas has a recent lining. The paint layer is clean and has been retouched. The temptation to clean the picture further should be resisted. Retouches are visible in the upper left corner in the sky where some thinness and frame abrasion has occurred and there are other spots of restoration across the top edge. There are other broad areas which read darkly under ultraviolet light which do not correspond to retouches. These are in the barn behind the trees in the upper right and a little in the tree trunk. However, there are other real restorations which are mixed in with these darker areas, some in this area, some in the rear of the sheep in the lower right, some in a few spots in the arms of the male cow heard on the right and in a few other isolated spots in the center of the left side. The restorations that exist are to be expected and the painting is in very presentable state.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This elaborate country scene is a fine example of Nicolaes Berchem's mature style.  Set outside the entrance to what appears to be a mine, Berchem has depicted a large amount of activity in a comparatively shallow and limited space.  To the left, a laborer converses with a man on horseback.  In the foreground, a flock of sheep mingle with two cows.  The beautifully lit woman at the center of the composition has just finished milking one of them and is now caught in the act of lifting her heavy pail.  Her companion is still at work while conversing with a man in a hat.  On top of the steep, rocky outcrop that rises above them, a man is playing a flute to a young woman.  To their right, a ramshackle barn, with its inhabitant donkey, is perched precariously on the edge of the hillside.  Very little sky is visible and the overall effect is almost claustrophobic, far different from Berchem's more traditional Italianate landscapes with their sweeping views of the countryside.  Here, Berchem seems to be drawing our attention to his figures, and to the dignity and grandeur of bucolic life. 

The son of the renowned still life painter, Pieter Claesz., Berchem was apprenticed at a young age to Jan van Goyen and later worked with Claes Moyaert, Pieter de Grebber and Jan Wils.  He married Catrijne Claes de Groot, the daughter of Jan Baptiste Weenix, in 1646, and in his father-in-law, found a true mentor and source of artistic inspiration.  He travelled to Westphalia with Jacob van Ruisdael around 1650, and may also have gone to Italy shortly after that trip, although there is little evidence to help verify this other than the stylistic development of his landscape paintings with their warmer tones and rich light.  Popular with patrons and collectors during his own time, Berchem also influenced a younger generation of artists:  counted among his pupils are Karel Dujardin, Jacob Ochtervelt and Pieter de Hooch.