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Arent Arentsz., 'Fishermen near Muiden Castle', about 1630

Key facts
Full title Fishermen near Muiden Castle
Artist Arent Arentsz.
Artist dates 1585/6 - 1631
Date made about 1630
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 23.3 × 38.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Presented by Dr J. Seymour Maynard through the Art Fund, 1920
Inventory number NG3533
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Fishermen near Muiden Castle
Arent Arentsz.

In this tiny picture, Arent Arentsz. shows a fisherman in heavy boots, his rod – a canvas bag hanging from it – over his shoulder. He looks back at a young lad pouring a catch of tiny fish from a large pitcher into a bowl, while an older man stands waiting with a similar bowl in his hands.

Arentsz. has arranged the three fishermen like a frieze across the foreground, the misty view behind them appearing quite separate – almost like a stage backcloth. But all the activity is rendered incidental to the main actors – the fishermen – by the strong contrast between them and the hazy, almost two-dimensional, background.

Even Muiden Castle, on the far bank of the river and featured in the picture’s title, is ghostlike and indistinct, though accurately portrayed. In 1630, rather than the fortress it was built to be, it was the gathering place for intellectuals and connoisseurs, a group known as the Muiderkring (‘The Muider Circle’).

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