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Dirck van den Bergen, Two Calves, a Sheep and a Dun Horse by a Ruin

Key facts
Full title Two Calves, a Sheep and a Dun Horse by a Ruin
Artist Dirck van den Bergen
Artist dates 1645 - about 1690
Date made probably about 1665
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 23.8 × 30 cm
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG984
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Two Calves, a Sheep and a Dun Horse by a Ruin
Dirck van den Bergen

Dirck van den Bergen was a pupil of the landscape and animal painter Adriaen van de Velde. A young apprentice would usually work in the manner of their master for a while, though most artists eventually broke away from their teacher’s example or developed their individual version of it. Van den Bergen, however, remained entirely faithful to Van de Velde’s example throughout his career.

This painting, sadly darkened through age, is a case in point. A calf and sheep lie in the shade. A sturdy young bull faces us, the pattern of its hide and the little fringe of hair between its horns catching the last rays of the sun. Behind them, almost invisible, is a dun horse and a rocky formation – perhaps the ruins of the title. To one side a person, chin in hand and deep in thought, completes a picture of peaceful rural charm. But all the elements in this picture are based on pictorial inventions first introduced by van de Velde.

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