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Jan van der Heyden, A View in Cologne

Key facts
Full title A View in Cologne
Artist Jan van der Heyden
Artist dates 1637 - 1712
Date made about 1660-5
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 33.1 × 42.9 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1871
Inventory number NG866
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A View in Cologne
Jan van der Heyden

This is one of at least four versions that Jan van der Heyden made of this scene of Cologne and its half-built medieval cathedral. It is an alluring view. He has captured the lengthy shadows and raking light of a bright morning in a city street populated with people from all walks of life.

Most of the architecture is broadly accurate. Building work on the cathedral had ground to a halt 100 years earlier, and the strange contraption on top of the tower on the right is the original medieval crane. The shadowy stump just behind the line of trees is the north-west tower.

While the layout of the building is correct, many details, such as the window traceries, are not. And some other buildings – notably the two in the right foreground – appear to be entirely made up. Van der Heyden’s concern was, most likely, to produce a pleasing view rather than a strictly accurate record.

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