Aert van der Neer was an expert at creating a sense of depth in his landscapes. Often, as here, he used the sinuous path of a river or inlet receding into the distance to emphasise the effect. In this picture he has gone a step further, using figures to reinforce that recession and to inject a sense of movement and progression to the scene.
Lit up by bright evening sunshine, a horse and cart is about to pass us, after apparently fording or following the river. The horse obviously isn’t enjoying the experience and hunches its head under the peasant’s switch, while its foal trots ahead. They are followed by a woman carrying a basket and jug while, in the middle distance, two more horses and carts seem to pick their way along the same route. In some landscapes, the viewer is given an elevated prospect; here, the artist has positioned us as bystanders, watching the traffic as it emerges from the distance and passes on its way.
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