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Aelbert Cuyp (Dordrecht 1620-Dordecht 1691)

An Evening Landscape with Figures and Sheep c.1655-59

Oil on canvas | 101.6 x 153.6 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405827

Picture Gallery, Buckingham Palace

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An Evening Landscape with Figures and Sheep is a characteristic imaginary landscape of Cuyp's maturity, again depicting a terrain reminiscent of the Rhine between Nijmegen and Cleves. The most direct source for his style here is unquestionably the work of Jan Both; Cuyp's Baptism of the Eunuch at Anglesey Abbey (The National Trust) is close enough to Jan Both's treatment of the same subject (Royal Collection, RCIN 405544) to imply that he was familiar with this particular painting. The pattern of trees against the sky in Cuyp exactly follows Both's model except in being more simplified in design and more freely handled in the application of paint.

It is more surprising to note how much this painting has in common with Rubens's Summer (Royal Collection, RCIN 401416) with its mannered clouds, use of multiple layers stacked behind each other to suggest depth, light pouring over the crests of the forms, and in its highly emotive theme of a path leading towards the light. It certainly has remarkably little in common with Jan van der Heyden's canal scene of exactly the same date (Royal Collection, RCIN 405948). This latter comparison reveals the mannerism of Cuyp's landscapes (if one can use that word without implied criticism): the decorative touch, the low but far-off perspective suggestive of a distant dream, and the contrived composition.

Signed lower right: A cuÿp