Jan Wijnants (Haarlem c. 1625-Amsterdam 1685)
Sportsmen in the Dunes Signed and dated 1669
Oil on canvas | 38.5 x 47.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405661
In Sportsmen on the Dunes Wijnants (c.1625-84) uses the undulation of the terrain to great visual effect. The dominant tree in the centre unites the two distinct elements of the dunes and, accentuated by a stream of sunlight, the lower-level polders (land reclaimed from the sea) beyond. A rider surveys the hilly dunes which rise up alongside the rough, twisting path. His clothes, and the inclusion of a gamekeeper accompanying him on foot, indicate wealth. They may have travelled from the large estate on the left. A figure with a gun is visible on the top of the dunes, shooting a bird with a dog behind him. In peaceful contrast a couple rest with their bundles on the roadside below.
Sand dunes frequently appear in Dutch landscapes of this date and, like the windmill, became a symbol of national pride. The viewpoint displayed here, with the dunes blocking the view of the sea beyond, emphasises their protective nature, as well as their potential as a venue for sport. The barren fallen tree in the foreground serves to guide the viewer’s eye up to the top of the dunes while also signifying the potential violence of high winds from the North Sea.
Wijnants is known to have employed different artists to paint the figures in his landscapes. In this instance they could be by Johannes Lingelbach or Adriaen van de Velde.
Signed and dated: 'J Wijnants. 1669.'
Text adapted from Dutch Landscapes, London, 2010
ProvenanceAcquired by George II as part of the collection of Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice
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