A Woman Milking a Goat outside a Barn
This happy homestead scene by Adriaen van de Velde (1636-72) seems to derive its imagery as well as its saturated colour and sharp clarity from Paulus Potter. This freshness conveys the clarity of light in the north when clear sunshine follows a shower, and can be contrasted with the bleached colours, more searing glare and dustier atmosphere of the Roman Campagna, seen in the work of Karel du Jardin (RCINs 404808 and 404811). By the 1660s tonal painting was out of fashion in every species of Dutch art: the inclusion here of the three primary colours – blue, yellow and red – apparently deliberately set out in clear blocks, can be paralleled in the genre paintings of the same period by Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch.
Van de Velde’s landscape does for the country what de Hooch’s modest, well-kept courtyards do for the town, expounding the uncomplicated virtues of daily life. A young mother has just fed her baby who sleeps over her shoulder, while her elder boy pesters her for a bread roll. It is extremely rare for anyone but a beggar to be shown barefoot in Dutch art; the fact that these two women appear thus here, though otherwise well turned-out and with almost classical folds of drapery, suggests that they have a near-allegorical significance rather than that they are destitute. The standing figure certainly reminds us of allegories of Charity. These Raphael-like figures draw attention to the overlap at this date between northern scenes and the idealised Italianate tradition of Cornelis van Poelenburgh (RCINs 404819 and 405629). Adriaen van de Velde painted Italianate as well as northern motifs; the geography is kept quite distinct, but the figure style tends to merge into one generalised image of what Milton might call a ‘fair virgin’ with ‘nymph-like step’.
Signed and dated: 'A. V. Velde. f. / 1666'
Text adapted from Dutch Landscapes, London, 2010