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Aert van der Neer, A Village by a River in Moonlight

Key facts
Full title A Village by a River in Moonlight
Artist Aert van der Neer
Artist dates 1603/4 - 1677
Date made about 1645
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 19.7 × 28.3 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2536
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Village by a River in Moonlight
Aert van der Neer

Nowadays, many of us have little experience of clear moonlight – it’s often washed out by street lights or car headlamps. But in the seventeenth century the many moods and lighting effects of the night sky and the different phases and heights of the moon would have been a familiar part of everyday life. It was only in 1670, about 25 years after this picture was painted, that Amsterdam became the first city in Europe to install a system of street lighting, invented by the painter Jan van der Heyden.

Van der Neer, who lived in Amsterdam, specialised in capturing landscapes in moonlight and at dawn and dusk, and this is a typical example of his work. It probably doesn‘t depict a ’real' place, but one composed by the artist so that he could highlight the reflections of light on the mirror-still water, and the carefully arranged silhouettes of the church, the windmill and the boats lying off the quayside.

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