Many of Aert van der Neer’s atmospheric landscapes are set in the low light of evening or early morning, characterised by a silvery glow on water and the deep shade of the wooded banks. He also painted night scenes, lit by a moon often partly hidden by the clouds of a dramatic sky. It’s not clear what time of day is depicted here, but the washed-out colours and the dull sheen on the water and of the sky behind the clouds give an impression of early dawn, before the sun has broken through and started to cast shadows.
If so, the people of this village are up early. As well as the horseman, prominent in the foreground, there’s a figure on the bank over the river behind him and another in his boat towards the centre of the painting. Just across the water from him and very hard to make out is the white sail of another boat making straight for us.
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