Lot 31
  • 31

Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael

600,000 - 800,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael
  • Waterfall in a hilly wooded landscape
  • signed with the monogram lower right:  JR [in ligature] 
  • oil on canvas


Johann Jakob Bachofen, Basel;
Mrs. von der Mühll-Bachofen, Basel, by 1919;
Carl Ryhiner von der Mühll;
Anonymous sale, London, Phillips, 2 July 1996, lot 49, reproduced;
With Konrad Bernheimer, Munich;
From whom acquired by the family of the present owner.


Basler Kunstverein, Basel,  Kunstwerken des. 15. – 18. Jahrhunderts aus Basler Privatbesitz, 15 April to 28 May, 1928, no.151.


 Partie des Tableaux de la Collection de Mr. Bacofen [sic] Basel rue fossé, [n.d., early 1850s], reproduced (as a lithograph by G. Wolf);
J. Rosenberg, Jakob van Ruisdael, Berlin 1928, p. 80 , no. 129;
Kunstwerken des. 15. – 18. Jahrhunderts aus Basler Privatbesitz, exhibition catalogue, Basel 1928, no.151, reproduced;
S. Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael:  A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, Drawings and Etchings, New Haven and London 2001, p. 219, no. 243, and p. 244, under no. 295, reproduced p. 219;
S. Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael, Master of Landscape, exhibition catalogue, London 2005, p. 108, under no. 32. 


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. The restoration to this work is attractive. The condition is very good. Although one could clean the work in theory and make improvements, the painting can also be hung as is. The canvas has a glue lining. The paint layer is stable, and one can clearly see there is no weakness or abrasion even in the darker colors. The deep blue in the upper center of the sky has developed some slight unevenness which has been retouched. There are small isolated spots of restoration in the lower left and around the extreme edges of the work, but this work is in impressive condition.
"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

Engraved in reverse by Emanuel Steiner (1778-1831).

Waterfalls and mountainous torrents clearly delighted Ruisdael and his audience.  Although not a common feature of the Dutch countryside, they are the subject of the largest single category of his extant paintings.1   The Waterfall in a Hilly Wooded Landscape, with its cool tones and massed deciduous trees rising into the sky, is characteristic of the artist’s paintings of the mid-1650s.  The overall  composition and the motif of the large broken tree in the foreground  are perhaps closest to a painting in The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Slive 295) of a somewhat later date.However, the composition here is a bit less dramatic and the mood more peaceful.  The fallen tree trunk is closer to the center of the composition and the stump much smaller, while the grove of trees at the right block our view into the distance.  This focuses our attention instead on his masterful description of the foaming water as it pours down the slope, almost reaching into our space.

The Waterfall in a Hilly Wooded Landscape is from the collection of Johann Jakob Bachofen (sometimes referred to as Bachofen-Burckhardt), an antiquarian and jurist, but most famously an anthropologist.  In 1861 he wrote a book called Mutterrecht (Mother Right), which discussed matriarchal societies in the ancient world.  It caused quite a stir and, although much of his theories have been discredited, it continued to be discussed and influenced writers until late into the 20th century.   Most of his collection went to his widow, who donated it to the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung in Basel and it remains an essential part of the collection.

1.  Slive 2001, op. cit., p.152 and following, lists more than 150 examples.  
2.  Ibid., pp. 219 and 244.