Lot 37
  • 37

Jan Josefsz. van Goyen

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • A Wooden Landing Stage on a Frozen River, Churches and a Windmill at left on the Distant Shore
  • signed in monogram and dated on the rowboat lower right: VG 1646
  • oil on panel
  • 14¼ by 13¼in.


Jacques-Philippe Le Bas, Paris;
His sale, Paris 1-6 December 1783, lot 1, to Dulac, for 340.3 livres ("L'Hiver, représenté par un Canal glacé, où l'on voit des Traîneaux & nombre de Patineurs ; sur le devant on distingue un Fanal en bois, d'une construction très pittoresque, & dans le lointain des Villages ; ce Tableau d'une bonne couleur, est un des plus beaux de ce Maître");
With E. Slatter, London, by 1949;
With Thomas Agnew & Sons, London;
From whom purchased by the family of the present owner in 1976. 


H.-U. Beck, Jan van Goyen 1596-1656, Amsterdam 1973, vol. II, p. 16, cat. no. 30, reproduced.


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 is in particularly good condition. The panel is flat and the paint layer is stable. The oak panel has a 19th century cradle on the reverse. There does not seem to be any particular reason for this cradle, but it does not seem to be harmful. The work is probably dirty and will brighten with careful cleaning. There is one small retouch in the center of the sky; this appears to be the only restoration to the picture. All of the details and complexities in the foreground are perfectly preserved, and there is none of the thinness that one so often sees in the skies of pictures from this period.
"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 landscape by Jan van Goyen is among the most refined and impeccably preserved examples from his entire oeuvre to come to market. Dated 1646, it is an ideal demonstration of the artist's shift from a purely tonal color palette of various hues of brown, characteristic of his work from the 1630s, towards a more naturalistic and varied range of blues, greens, dark browns and greys.

The 1640s, and in particular the latter part of the decade, were an incredibly creative time in van Goyen's career. The pictures from this period are atmospheric in every sense of the word. He focused his energies on capturing highly subtle and varied effects of the weather at various times of day, how those effects changed the colors within his paintings. In these later works, clouds take on an ever increasing importance, becoming central characters in van Goyen's compositions. Furthermore, they are vehicles for the evocation of mood. Here, a swath of silvery storm clouds pass over a frozen river, while patches of crystalline blue peek into the scene, suggesting the passing of a rough period of weather. The importance of the sky and its changing effects is further enhanced by van Goyen's choice to employ an upright compositional format. The use of upright panels appears to have been reserved for only select works, as Beck lists only three other Hochformat, or vertical, winter scenes.Below this impressive sky, skaters and sledders go about their leisurely activities on the frozen river below beside a tall wooden jetty, unperturbed by any suggestion of a storm, and fully comfortable in the eccentricities of their native weather patterns.

At this moment in his career van Goyen demonstrates a confident virtuosity in his paint application. As is most apparent here in the massive expanse of clouds, he applies the paint with a thickly loaded brush, while the details of the boats, wooden tower in the immediate foreground, and in particular the distant town on the horizon, are as much drawn with the brush as painted. Van Goyen creates these elements with rapid strokes, lending a lightness and vivacity of movement to them, reminiscent of the reed pen of Rembrandt in his landscape drawings.

Of all the pictures which van Goyen executed in 1646, only three, including the present picture, are winter scenes. The two other works, one formerly in the Fondation Custodia, Paris, and the other formerly with Edward Speelman, London, are both of larger horizontal format in comparison with the present work.2  To a greater extent, the winter landscape was clearly one of van Goyen's more specialized sub-genres; only a small percentage of autograph pictures of his entire oeuvre are characterized by Beck as winter landscape.


1. Beck 1973, op. cit, cat. nos. 27-30a.
2. Ibid. cat. nos. 74-75.
3. Ibid. cat. nos. 1-98a.