Salomon van Ruysdael
(Naarden, ca. 1600-1670, Haarlem)
View of Rhenen, 1651
Oil on panel, 43.5 x 54 cm
Signed & dated lower left: SVRUYSDAEL 1651
Stechow 523A
When one journeyed from Utrecht to Nijmegen and Cleve or to Arnhem, one reached the north bank of the Rhine near Rhenen and saw the town as it appears in this painting. It was not directly on the Rhine and had no harbour. It was surrounded by a medieval wall and lay on a slope. There were two windmills at the highest points of the town wall. The landmark of Rhenen, however, was the massive tower of the Late Gothic church of St. Cunera – known to all those familiar with Dutch art and architecture. It was built between 1492 and 1531, one of the finest examples of Dutch Late Gothic. The relics of St. Cunera had supplied the town with the means to build this church. West of the tower was the second great landmark of Rhenen, one century younger than the tower; the Palace of Frederick V of the Palatinatethe, Bohemia's "Winter King" of Bohemia, for whom this was built as a Residence. But he departed again in 1632. Since that time nothing important happened in Rhenen, but the distant view of the town from the north bank across the Rhine has fascinated countless painters and draughtsmen. Van Ruysdael himself had painted a view of Rhenen (London) and in 1660 (?) again resumed the theme, as he did later at least twice. Our painting is dominated by the brown ground undulations in the foreground, with a little yellow mixed in, then some green in the distance, and by the greyish-blue of the quiet Rhine, above all by the lofty sky, in which the brown ground tone shimmers through. A multitude of finely graded tones from the ivory yellow above the town to the blue at the top edge of the picture and all kinds of grey tones in the clouds make the sky a chromatic experience, lifting the picture above "topography".