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Aelbert Cuyp, The Maas at Dordrecht in a Storm

Key facts
Full title The Maas at Dordrecht in a Storm
Artist Aelbert Cuyp
Artist dates 1620 - 1691
Date made about 1645-50
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 49.8 × 74.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Presented by the Misses Rachel F. and Jean I. Alexander; entered the Collection, 1972
Inventory number NG6405
Location Room 19
Collection Main Collection
The Maas at Dordrecht in a Storm
Aelbert Cuyp

Aelbert Cuyp is best known for landscapes which evoke a strong sense of peace, plenty and prosperity. This picture, which is probably an early work, is very different. It is defined by the lightning which flashes across the sky above Cuyp’s home town of Dordrecht. It captures an instant – the moment when the gleaming rooftops and the church tower in the background have been illuminated by the sudden blaze of light.

In the foreground, the clouds seem to be clearing. A burst of sunlight catches the spray thrown back over the bow of the boat nearest us. The churning waves are capped with foam and the sail is blown taught against the rigging. But in the midst of this drama, there is also a quiet stoicism: the sailors seem calm and controlled while nature rages around them. If there is heroism here, it is the quiet heroism of endurance in the face of adversity.

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