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Meindert Hobbema, The Haarlem Lock, Amsterdam

Key facts
Full title The Haarlem Lock, Amsterdam
Artist Meindert Hobbema
Artist dates 1638 - 1709
Date made about 1663-5
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 77 × 98 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Miss Beatrice Mildmay, 1953
Inventory number NG6138
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Haarlem Lock, Amsterdam
Meindert Hobbema

Hobbema was a specialist landscape painter – this is his only known city view, a depiction of the ordered and harmonious relationship between people and water. We are looking towards the Haarlem Lock at the point where two of Amsterdam’s most important waterways meet – the Singel on the right and the Brouwersgracht in the immediate foreground. Hobbema seems to have chosen this view to focus the viewer’s mind on the connection between this carefully regulated system of canals and the wider world.

Beyond the lock and the lock-keeper, who is controlling the water with a long lever, are the clustered masts of a dozen or so square-riggers, part of the huge Dutch merchant fleet which had mastered the high seas for Holland. To the right is one of the look-out towers which were part of the town’s fortifications from the fifteenth century. It was called the Herring-Packers' Tower (Haaringpakkerstoren), a nod to the work done in the adjoining warehouse.

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