The Valkhof at Nijmegen
The Valkhof at Nijmegen
The Valkhof at Nijmegen

The Valkhof at Nijmegen

Aelbert Cuyp (Dutch, 1620-1691)

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The medieval citadel known as the Valkhof in the town of Nijmegen was a popular subject with Dutch artists. It had a strong patriotic appeal due to its legendary association with the site of a local uprising against the Romans. The reference to this 1st-century revolt would have invited comparison with the successful Dutch rebellion against Spain, which concluded only a few years before this painting was made.

Here, Cuyp bathes the view in his hallmark golden light. This atmospheric effect is more typical of Italian painting than Dutch; Cuyp adopted it from other artists who had traveled southward.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Calm water, plump cows, scudding clouds, and a whirling windmill: what could be more Dutch than this tranquil scene? The peaceful mood is reinforced by the artist's reliance on horizontal lines and rectilinear masses ranged across the picture plane. The red jacket of the standing figure provides a brilliant pictorial accent. Across the Waal River rises the Valkhof, a medieval citadel adjoining the city of Nijmegen, once the home of the ancient hero Claudius Civilis, who led the native Batavians in revolt against imperial Rome. This view would have filled Cuyp's contemporaries, who had recently won their independence from Spain, with nostalgia and patriotic pride. The distant windmill, lit by the morning sun, was a modern technological marvel, useful for pumping water or grinding grain.

Cuyp based this landscape on eyewitness sketches of the site, which he visited in 1652, but he transformed the typically gray Dutch atmosphere with a warm, Italianate glow. Although Cuyp never traveled to Italy, the adoption of sunny, southern light effects is a hallmark of his style. It may reflect the influence of Jan Both, whose Scene in the Roman Campagna of about 1647-48 is also in the IMA's collection of Dutch paintings. Cuyp's work, in turn, had a profound impact on 19th-century landscape painters, including J.M.W. Turner, who journeyed to Holland to walk in his footsteps.

[O]ne can distinguish in his pictures the misty sunrise from bright noontime, and these in turn from saffron-colored sunset.
-Painter Arnold Houbraken, 1718

Dukes of Saxe-Coburg- Gotha, Schloss Friedenstein, since at least 1826 (known as the Herzogliches Museum or Museum zu Gotha, and since 2004 as the Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein Gotha); {1} sold in April 1937 by the museum director to the art historian/dealer Eduard Plietzsch as a "van Strij". {2} With (Cassirer, Amsterdam) by July 1937, probably via (Galerie St. Lucas, Vienna, Austria); {3} With (Arnold Seligmann, Rey, and Co., Inc., New York, New York) circa 1939, possibly in conjunction with (Rudolf Heinemann [1901-1975], New York); {4} purchased by Caroline Marmon Fesler, Indianapolis, Indiana for the John Herron Art Institute, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 1943.{5}

{1} Verzeichniß der Gemählde bey der Herzoglichen Bildergallerie in Gotha, Gotha 1826, Abt. IV, fol. 56, no. 27. No. 27 reads as follows: 'Ansicht einer am Waser liegenden Stadt. Im Vorgrunde ist ein stehender Hirt beÿ zweÿ sitzenden Personen und zweÿ ruhenden Kühen sichtbar.' Four other Cuyps were in this ducal collection according to this hand-written inventory. This is confirmed by Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, 8 volumes, 1908-27, vol. 2, p. 66, cat. no. 196, which lists the painting as in the "Gotha Museum."
{2} In a letter from Plietzsch to museum director Schenk zu Schweinsberg, dated 1 April 1937 (photocopy in IMA provenance file), Plietzsch refers to the negotiations, insisting that a price of 2,500 Marks for this "decorative picture" was far too high. He continued: "I repeat again, that I do not hold this painting to be an original by Aelbert Cuyp, and of course will not sell it as a Cuyp." A subsequent letter from Plietzsch, dated 6 April 1937, confirms that Plietzsch bought the painting as a van Stry (sic) for 1,800 Marks. This correspondence was generously provided by Dr. Allmuth Schuttwolf, Curator, Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein Gotha, in August 2004.
{3} Art historian Alan Chong surmises that the painting passed through Galerie St. Lucas in Vienna before arriving in Amsterdam; see Alan Chong, Aelbert Cuyp and the meanings of landscape, Ph.D. New York University, 1992, cat. no. 152. Correspondence with the Galerie St. Lucas in February 2003 revealed that records from this period are incomplete. Both Max Friedländer and W.R. Valentiner authenticate the painting as a Cuyp in summer 1937 after its arrival in Amsterdam. Friedländer resided in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, at the time, and Valentiner traveled to Amsterdam in July 1937, as per Valentiner Paper at Archives of American Art, New York, microfilm reel 2140, frame 1044.
{4} Dr. Rudolph J. Heinemann was affiliated with several galleries, including Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co., Inc., New York according to Special List 2: Books from the Library of Rudolf J. Heinemann ( As stated in correspondence between Paul M. Byk of Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co., Inc. and Mrs. James Fesler on April 26, 1943, the painting was sold to "the very great Firm of Cassirer in Amsterdam about four or five years ago, when we bought it together with them," thus leading to the conclusion that the painting was acquired circa 1939 in conjunction with the art dealer Cassirer. In a following correspondence dated December 6, 1943, Byk wrote to Mrs. Fesler that the painting "went into another dealer's hands and then into ours." See IMA historical file on 43.107.
{5} IMA Temporary Reciept No. 4486.

Object Information

Aelbert Cuyp (Dutch, 1620-1691)
creation date
about 1652-1654
oil on panel
19-1/4 x 29 in.
28 x 37-1/2 x 3-1/2 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
Gift in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Art Association of Indianapolis in memory of Daniel W. and Elizabeth C. Marmon
Public Domain
European Painting and Sculpture Before 1800

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