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Aelbert Cuyp, The Small Dort

Key facts
Full title A Distant View of Dordrecht, with a Sleeping Herdsman and Five Cows ('The Small Dort')
Artist Aelbert Cuyp
Artist dates 1620 - 1691
Date made about 1650-2
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 66.4 × 100 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG962
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Small Dort
Aelbert Cuyp

This painting is very similar to but roughly half the size of another landscape by Aelbert Cuyp, also in the National Gallery’s collection: A Distant View of Dordrecht, with a Milkmaid and Four Cows, and Other Figures. We don't know which was painted first but presumably one of Cuyp’s customers saw one of the paintings, liked it and asked him for a bigger or smaller version.

Most of Cuyp’s clients were wealthy merchants in his hometown of Dordrecht, and several had land and property in the countryside beyond; almost certainly they would have had an interest in dairy farming. Cows were a national success story. The seventeenth century had seen increasing improvements in breeding stock, better feeding practice and reclamation of flooded land – low-lying pasture was much better for cattle than sheep. Cheese and butter were not only national staples, they were now key exports. In short, cattle represented wealth, peaceful prosperity and plenty.

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