Time has not been kind to Jan van Goyen’s river landscape, and his soft muted colours have been dimmed under a coat of yellowed varnish. But we sense the tranquillity of the scene – the vast sky, the quiet ripple of the water under the small boat heading upriver and the patient cows cropping the grass close to us.
Passengers settle on the insubstantial-looking craft moored on the far bank, apparently unconcerned by the heavy wagon pulled by two horses on board. The little village between the trees seems to be a jumble of rooftops huddled together, culminating in the spire of the church piercing the clouds.
We don’t know if the painting depicts a particular Dutch village. It hasn’t been identified, but it is one of several versions of the same view painted by van Goyen during his career.
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