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Jan van der Heyden, An Architectural Fantasy

Key facts
Full title An Architectural Fantasy
Artist Jan van der Heyden
Artist dates 1637 - 1712
Date made probably 1665-70
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 51.8 × 64.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG992
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
An Architectural Fantasy
Jan van der Heyden

Jan van der Heyden had an outstanding ability to make buildings seem almost photographically real (at least, that’s how we might describe it today). He worked with extraordinary delicacy and precision, taking the trouble to delineate and shade the finest details of stone and brickwork and the play of light on every tile. Look at the effects of weathering and the patched up repairs on the gable end of the building in the centre.

Despite being painted in such a realistic way, this scene is almost certainly not real. As the title suggests, it’s an architectural fantasy composed of elements of different buildings which the artist had probably visited in Germany and Holland. Van der Heyden painted several such scenes – they were probably appreciated for their exoticism and the way they evoked a sense of an ideal city once great, now ruined.

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