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Jan Siberechts, A Cowherd passing a Horse and Cart in a Stream

Key facts
Full title A Cowherd passing a Horse and Cart in a Stream
Artist Jan Siberechts
Artist dates 1627 - 1700/3
Date made probably 1658
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 63.8 × 54.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by John P. Heseltine, 1907
Inventory number NG2130
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Cowherd passing a Horse and Cart in a Stream
Jan Siberechts

Here, the arduous journey of a laden wagon from farm to market is a town dweller’s dream of life in the country. Jan Siberechts lived in the city of Antwerp and earned his living producing such scenes for an urban clientele. Drawing on his experience in the countryside around the city, he idealised what he had seen, portraying ‘the peasant’ as a noble, hard-working figure, showing little sign of the effects of labour in a country where conditions could be harsh.

Siberechts has painted an idyll, but it’s the details and textures that seem to have given him the most pleasure: the folds in the old woman’s collar tickled by the feathery leaves below; the sunlight on the girl’s sturdy legs and the folds in her white petticoat; the glint on the cow’s tough horn next to its fluffy tuft of hair. These are all part of the idyllic illusion but were, for the people living in the fast-changing cities of seventeenth-century Flanders, nostalgic and reassuring.

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