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Cattle and Sheep in a Stormy Landscape
Paulus Potter
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A bull stands silhouetted against a threatening sky. It seems energised and alert, aware of the presence of the viewer – it makes direct eye contact with us – and of the storm. A strong wind bends the willow trees and a sheet of rain sweeps across the middle distance. Two cows and a pair of sheep remain calmly feeding or resting – images of fortitude and dependability, watched over by the protective bull. There’s a strong sense of independence here, too: there’s no sign of a herdsman, nor other human interference.

Why would Potter cast cattle as heroes? From an economic point of view, cheese and butter were national staples and key exports at a time when the Dutch Republic was on the verge of becoming a fully independent nation. Cows were a dependable source of prosperity, and Potter may have been intending to convey a symbolic message about national resilience and identity.

Key facts
Artist Paulus Potter
Artist dates 1625 - 1654
Full title Cattle and Sheep in a Stormy Landscape
Date made 1647
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 46.3 x 37.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2583
Location in Gallery Room 26
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