Dulwich Picture Gallery I


Nicolaes Berchem DPG88, DPG377

DPG88 – A Farrier shoeing an Ass near Ruins

1650s; canvas, 67.3 x 81.3 cm, including an added strip 1.2 cm wide at the left
Signed, bottom right: ‘Berchem.F.

?Desenfans, 1794–1807;1 or ?anonymous sale, Amsterdam, 21 August 1799 (Lugt 5966), lot 15*, bt by the Amsterdam dealer J. P. van der Schley for ƒ150;2 Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 18, no. 172 ('Closet in Upper Room West / no. 6, Figures, cattle, sheep, horses & ruins in Lande. – C[anvas] Berghem’; 3'8" x 3'9").

Cat. 1817, p. 11, no. 181 (‘CENTRE ROOM – South Side; A Farrier shoeing an Ass; Berchem’); Haydon 1817, p. 388, no. 181;3 Cat. 1820, p. 11, no. 181; Patmore 1824a, p. 188;4 Hazlitt 1824, p. 37;5 Cat. 1830, p. 10, no. 185;6 Jameson 1842, ii, p. 464, no. 132 (‘A very brilliant picture’); Hazlitt 1843, p. 29;7 Ruskin 1843, pt i, sect. ii, ch. ii, §7, pp. 45–6;8 Ruskin 1843, pt ii, sect. ii, ch. iii (Of Truth of Chiaroscuro), §13 (General falsehood of the old masters in this respect), pp. 151–2;9 Denning 1858 and 1859, no. 132;10 Sparkes 1876, p. 10, no. 132; Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 10, no. 132;11 Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, pp. 22–3, no. 88; HdG, ix, 1926, p. 101, no. 174; Cook 1914, pp. 51–3, no. 88; Cook 1926, pp. 49–50, no. 88; Cat. 1953, p. 10; Schaar 1958, pp. 85–6; Murray 1980a, p. 28; Murray 1980b, p. 7; Beresford 1998, p. 38; Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 30–31; RKD, no. 225931: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/225931 (June 28, 2017).

London 1995, pp. 22 (fig.), 54–5, no. 10 (R. Beresford, C. Hassall and N. Ryder); Williamsburg/Fresno/Pittsburgh/Oklahoma City 2008–10, pp. 30–31, no. 1 (I. A. C. Dejardin).

Medium weight plain-weave linen canvas. The ground layer consists of a warm mixed brown preparation. The paint surface has a fine, very slightly granular texture. No original tacking edges remain. The painting has been glue paste lined. The stretcher is 0.5 cm wider than the original picture on all sides except for the left where there is a 1.2 cm in-painted addition. There is some weave interference and flattened impasto from an earlier lining. Some discolouration has occurred in the hill areas; this is possibly related to the use of smalt in the underlayers. The brown passages of paint have suffered from past cleaning abrasion. Overall, the paint layers are in very good condition. Previous recorded treatment: 1936, stretcher and frame treated for woodworm; 1948–53, cleaned and perhaps lined, Dr Hell; 1995, relined onto new stretcher, cleaned and restored, N. Ryder.

1a) Nicolaes Berchem, Gipsy Camp, canvas, 105 x 94 cm. Alte Pinakothek, Munich, 6313.12
1b) Nicolaes Berchem, replica of no. 1a. Galloway collection, Ayr.
2) Nicolaes Berchem, Italian Landscape with a Cavalry Skirmish, signed C. Berghem, canvas, 79 x 63.2 cm. KMSK, Antwerp, 827.13
3) Nicolaes Berchem, Return from the Hunt, canvas, 74 x 63 cm. Van Aalst collection, Hoevelaken.14
4) Nicolaes Berchem, Shepherds beside Roman Ruins, 1661, canvas, 63.5 x 76.5 cm. MH, The Hague, 13 [1].15
5) Nicolaes Berchem, Halt at an Inn, canvas, 81 x 66 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (formerly Hermitage, St Petersburg).16
6) Nicolaes Berchem, Halt at an Inn, canvas, 49.3 x 39.3 cm. Wallace Collection, London, P213.17
7) Nicolaes Berchem, Landscape with Cattle, panel, 33.1/32.6 x 44.1 cm. Wallace Collection, London, P185.18

This is a typical Berchem Italianate scene, datable to c. 1650–60. The composition is enlivened by patches of light, which give accents to the figures. The architecture of the ruins blocks the view of the wider landcape.

In 1958 Schaar stated that DPG88 belonged to a group of pictures of grottos that Berchem produced in the 1650s, noting in particular the similarity of its composition to the Gipsy Camp in Munich (Related works, no. 1a). He also saw similarities with HdG178, a scene with a farrier;19 with the figures in HdG12120 and HdG827, the Antwerp Italian Landscape with a Cavalry Skirmish (Related works, no. 2). See also the landscape in upright format (Related works, no. 3) and the landscape with ruins in The Hague of 1661 (Related works, no. 4). The figure of the woman on the donkey and the idealized pastoral scene are both typical of Berchem’s œuvre (see also Related works, nos 5–7).

The painting was regarded by Jameson in 1842 and Denning in 1858 and 1859 as one of the best by Berchem in the Gallery.21 However, as appreciation for the Dutch Italianates lessened, DPG88 was singled out for criticism. In 1824 Hazlitt wrote, ‘There is a truth of character and delicate finishing; but the fault of all Berchem’s pictures is that he continues to finish after he has done looking at nature, and his last touches are different from hers. Hence comes that resemblance to tea-board painting, which even his best works are chargeable with’.22

In 1843 Ruskin considered the quality of ‘strangeness’, an unusual technique or effect, for which he compared the bull’s head in Rubens’ Adoration of the Magi (Antwerp) with the cow in DPG88, and found Berchem wanting: ‘a dark back-ground is first laid in with exquisite delicacy and transparency, and on this the cow’s head is actually modelled in luminous white, the separate locks of hair projecting from the canvas. No surprise, nor much pleasure of any kind, would be attendant on this execution, even were the result equally successful; and what little pleasure we have in it vanishes, when on retiring from the picture we find the head shining like a distant lantern, instead of seeming substantial or near.’23 Ian Dejardin wondered whether the browns and greens had darkened chemically over time, so that the contrasts are over-emphasized.

Nicolaes Berchem
Farrier shoeing an ass near ruins, c. 1650-1660
canvas, oil paint 67,3 x 81,3 cm
lower right : Berchem.F
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG88

Nicolaes Berchem
Shepherds by Roman ruins, 1661 (dated)
canvas, oil paint 63,5 x 76,5 cm
lower right : Berchem 1661
The Hague, Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen Mauritshuis, inv./cat.nr. 13

DPG337 – Ruins, with Cattle and Figures

c. 1655–65; oak panel, 36.8 x 43.8 cm
Signed or inscribed, bottom right: B or D[…] (?)

?Van Sonne sale, Rotterdam 1752, bt Willem Lormier, for fl. 250;24 ?Lormier sale 1752, no. 43;25 ?Lormier sale, The Hague, 4 July 1763 (Lugt 1307), lot 44;26 Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 33, no. 358 (‘Closet to S: Drawing Room / no. 10, Buildings, figures & Cattle – P[anel] Berghem’; 1'10" x 2').

Cat. 1817, p. 5, no. 46 (‘FIRST ROOM – North Side; A Landscape and Figures; N. Berchem’); Haydon 1817, p. 374, no. 46;27 Cat. 1820, p. 5, no. 46 (N. Berchem); Cat. 1830, p. 10, no. 198 (Berchem); Smith 1829–42, v (1834), p. 13, no. 20;28 Jameson 1842, ii, p. 474, no. 198 (‘Very dark and dingy’);29 Denning 1858, no. 198 (Berchem); Denning 1859, no. 198 (ascribed to Berchem); Sparkes 1876, p. 11, no. 198 (ascribed to Berchem; ‘Signed’); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 11, no. 198 (School of Berchem; ‘Signed’);30 Richter & Sparkes 1892, pp. 93–4, no. 337 (School of Berchem); Richter & Sparkes 1905, pp. 93–4, no. 337 (Berchem; ‘An early work of the master; not well preserved’); Cook 1914, p. 205, no. 337 (‘A Laundress, near Ruins’); Cook 1926, p. 205, no. 337; HdG, ix, 1926, p. 135, no. 288 (N. Berchem);31 Cat. 1953, p. 10; Murray 1980a, p. 301 (Berchem); Beresford 1998, p. 41 (‘Follower of Berchem’); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 31; RKD, no. 285229: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/285229 (Oct. 17, 2017).

Single-member oak panel. The paint surface is worn, particularly in areas of the sky and mountain, and the signature has been almost entirely abraded. The entire image has darkened in tonality. Previous recorded treatment: 1936, worm holes in panel filled; 1952–68, ?cleaned, Dr Hell.

An Italianate landscape, where the architecture obstructs the wider view. Early catalogues of the Dulwich collection record that the picture was signed ‘Berchem’, but this is no longer visible. The landscape in the background is almost totally lost, as is the herdsman behind the cow. The poor condition of the painting makes a fair appraisal impossible, but the two women in the foreground show enough quality to reinstate DPG337 as a work of Berchem’s middle period. The picture does not appear to have been in good condition even in the 19th century: Mrs Jameson described it as ‘Very dark and dingy’ – so indistinct that she thought there was another woman milking the cow. In the 1859 version of Denning’s catalogue it became ‘ascribed to Nicholas Berchem’, and in 1880 Richter and Sparkes judged that it was an imitation of Berchem.

Hofstede de Groot considered this to be an early work, and, following Smith, proposed that it had a pair when it was in the collection of Willem Lormier (1682–1758) between 1752 (nos 42 and 43) and 1763 (nos 43 and 44). However, according to Hofstede de Groot himself the two pictures had a different provenance before they were purchased by Lormier, and also in the Lormier sales they are not indicated as a pair.32 The supposed pair is untraced.33

Nicolaes Berchem
Ruins, with cattle and figures, c. 1655-1665
panel (oak), oil paint 36,8 x 43,8 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG337


1 DPG88 may have been in the Desenfans sale, London, 16 June 1794 (Lugt 5226), lot 99 (‘Landscape, cattle and figures, with a farrier shoeing an ass, companion to 97 – 3 ft. 9 by 3 ft. 3, on canvas’). However it is not upright in format. The ‘companion’ was described as ‘Landscape, cattle, and figures’ with the same dimensions. The picture did not sell, or was withdrawn, and it is difficult to determine whether it was in one of the later sales of Desenfans’ collection. There were numerous pictures by Berchem of farriers at work.

2 As Hofstede de Groot suggested in his RKD index cards.

3 ‘Berghem. Landscape, with animals and figures; a man shoeing an ass.’

4 ‘Among the Berchems, if I recollect rightly, 164 is the best and most characteristic example.’ However in Cat. 1820 no. 164 is a Rubens (Historical Sketch) and in Cat. 1830 no. 164 is a painting by [Pietro da] Cortona. It is probable that Patmore refers to DPG88, as it is the largest and at the time considered to be the most typical Berchem in the collection.

5 See below in the main text.

6 On this page the numbers differ. In principle the numbers from the 1830 Cat. are the same as the Denning numbers, but in this case numbers 132 and 185 are transposed: Cat. 1830, no. 132, The Chaff Cutter by Teniers, is Denning 1858, no. 185, while Cat. 1830, no. 185, A Farrier shoeing an Ass by Berchem, is Denning 1858, no. 132.

7 ‘in his usual manner’; see the main text, last paragraph.

8 ‘§7 Strangeness an illegitimate source of pleasure in execution: […] By Berghem, on the other hand, a dark back-ground is first laid in with exquisite delicacy and transparency, and on this the cow’s head is actually modelled in luminous white, the separate locks of hair projecting from the canvas. No surprise, nor much pleasure of any kind, would be attendant on this execution, even were the result equally successful; and what little pleasure we had in it, vanishes, when on retiring from the picture, we find the head shining like a distant lantern, instead of seeming substantial or near. Yet strangeness is not to be considered as a legitimate source of pleasure. […] This kind of pleasure is illegitimate, therefore, because it implies and requires, in those who feel it, ignorance of art.’

9 ‘§13 General falsehood of the old masters in this respect: […] Take the Berghem, No. 132, Dulwich Gallery, which is a most studied piece of chiaroscuro. Here we have the light isolated with a vengeance! Looking at it from the opposite side of the room, we fancy it must be the representation of some experiment with the oxy-hydrogen microscope; and it is with no small astonishment that we find, on closer approach, that all the radiance proceeds from a cow’s head. Mithra may well be inimical to Taurus, if his occupation is to be taken out of his hands in this way! If cattle heads are to be thus phosphorescent, we shall be able to do without the sun altogether! But even supposing that this were a true representation of a point of light, where are our points of darkness? The whole picture, wall, figures, and ground, is one mass of deep shade, through which the details are, indeed, marvellously given when we look close, but which totally precludes all possibility of giving a single point or keynote of shade. Now, nature, just as far as she raised the white cow’s head above all the middle tint in light, would have put some black cow’s head, or hole in the wall, or dark piece of dress, something, it matters not what – below all the middle tint in darkness – just as violent and just as conspicuous in shade, as the head is violent and conspicuous in light. Consequently, Berghem has given us only two members of the system of chiaroscuro, of which nature has appointed that there shall always be three. I have chosen this picture for illustration, because it is a very clever and careful work by a master, not, in his ordinary works, viciously disposed to tricks of chiaroscuro.’ According to Cook & Wedderburn (1903, iii, pp. 316–17 (note): the passage above is only included in the first and second editions, between §12 and §13.

10 1858: ‘As fine a picture as there is in the Gallery – it came here in a wretched condition. It is certainly a Berghem. S.P.D.’; 1859: ‘It is indeed one of the finest of its sort in the Gallery’.

11 ‘A good specimen of the skilfulness with which Berchem, while in Holland, during his second and later period, reproduced Roman ruins and figures, after an adopted model.’

12 HdG, ix, 1926, p. 94, no. 149.

13 Vandamme 1988, p. 35, no. 827; HdG, ix, 1926, p. 84, no. 121.

14 HdG, ix, 1926, p. 98, no. 165.

15 Buvelot 2004, pp. 62–3, no. 13; HdG, ix, 1926, p. 157, no. 370.

16 HdG, ix, 1926, p. 101, no. 175.

17 Ingamells 1992, pp. 31–2, no. P213; HdG, ix, 1926, pp. 91–2, no. 142.

18 Ingamells 1992, pp. 28–30, no. P185; HdG, ix, 1926, pp. 107–8, no. 195.

19 HdG, ix, 1926, p. 102, no. 178.

20 ibid., p. 84, no. 121.

21 Jameson 1842, p. 464, calls it ‘A very brilliant picture’. This is repeated in Denning 1858 and Denning 1859; in the latter Denning adds: ‘It is indeed one of the finest of its sort in the Gallery.’

22 Hazlitt 1824, p. 37.

23 See above, note 8 for the rest of the quote.

24 This picture is not mentioned in Hoet 1752, ii, p. 335, as incorrectly stated in Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 31.

25 For the Lormier collection see Korthals Altes 2000–2001. The catalogue of the 1752 Lormier sale, published in Hoet 1752, ii, p. 419, gives as the second entry under ‘Nicolaas Berchem’: ‘Een Landschap, Beesten, een staande Man, en een Vrouw die Linnen wast, br. 1 v. 4 en drie vierde duim, h. 1 v. 1 en een vierde d, P.’ (A landscape, animals, a standing man, a woman washing linen, width 1'4¾", height 1'1¼" [Dutch dimensions], P[anel]). According to the annotations by Willem Lormier (see also Korthals Altes 2000–2001, p. 252, fig. 4), this picture was no. 43 and seems to have been acquired by Lormier for fl. 250. This is not likely to be DPG337, as the standing man (behind the cow) is not the most prominent feature here: it is the two women in the foreground, and in particular the woman with a basket of linen in the centre. For the 1752 catalogue with Lormier’s annotations see Lugt online, under Lugt 1307, second copy.

26 Terwesten 1770, p. 316, no. 44: ‘Een Landschap met Beesten, een Vrouwtje dat Linne wast en meer Figuuren, door denzelven [i.e. by N. Berchem]; P, breet 1 voet duim, hoog 1 voet 1¾ duim 1110 - 0’ (A landscape with animals, a woman washing linen and more figures, by the same; P[anel], width 1'4¾", height 1'1¾" [Dutch dimensions] ƒ1,110 - 0). However in the original catalogue (see Lugt online, under Lugt 1307, third copy), the height is given as 1'1¼" - the same as that of the Berchem in the previous note, suggesting that it is the same picture, hence probably not DPG337.

27 ‘Nicholas Berghem. Landscape and Figures.’

28 ‘Companion. A landscape, exhibiting a diversified scene, animated with cattle and figures. Among the latter may be noticed a woman washing linen. Collection of M. Lormier. Hague, 1763. 1110 flo. 100 l.’ Smith started the confusion about the companion: he says that the picture that might be DPG337 has as companion his no. 19 (on pp. 12–13), The Passage Boat, or Le Passage du Bac, which was engraved by Laurent in 1773 (see note 31 below). However that picture is described in Lormier’s 1763 catalogue as ‘Een Landschap, Koey, Schaapen, en een Vrouw te Paardt, en een die een Gyt melkt’ (A Landscape, Cow, Sheep, and a Woman riding a Horse, and one milking a Goat). No water or boat is mentioned.

29 ‘A Landscape, with Figures. A woman milking a red cow; another washing linen at a stream, &c. Very dark and dingy.’ The painting must have been very dark indeed, as no one is milking the red cow.

30 ‘Painted in imitation of Berchem; the colour of a heavy brown tone, and dull in effect; the signature a forgery.’

31 HdG says that DPG337 is the pair of his no. 220 (HdG, ix, 1926, p. 114). But his no. 220 has a different provenance: HdG gives that as the Hendrik Schut sale, Rotterdam, 8 April 1739 (where it has no pair). That is based on Hoet 1752, i, p. 573, no. 7: Een dito [i.e. no. 6, Een Italiaansche Zeehaven], verbeeldende een Morgenstont met Beelden en Beesten, door denzelven [i.e. Nicolaas Berghem], zynde een van zyn beste tyt. 350 - 0 (A ditto [i.e. no. 6, An Italian Harbour; but the cataloguer probably made a mistake, and what may be meant is the Landscape that is no. 5] depicting a morning scene with figures and animals, by the same, from his best period. ƒ350), to Lormier. HdG220 was engraved in 1773 by Laurent as Le Passage du Bac: see https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1869-0410-2156 (June 29, 2020). In that year Le Passage du Bac had a pair (not DPG337), after which a print was also made. That was called L’Occupation de la bergère: see https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1869-0410-2155 (June 28, 2020). Nothing is known of this Passage du Bac after 1841 (Count Perrégaux sale, Paris, 8 Dec. 1841, lot 2, 12,000 frs, to Laneuville). There is a different Passage du Bac in the Louvre, after which also a reproduction print was made, see RKD, no. 230253: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/230253 (the picture by Nicolaes Berchem; see also under DPG196, Related works, no. 1a) and RKD, no. 229612: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/229612 (the print by Robert Daudet).

32 Moreover the description of Smith 19 does not correspond to the descriptions in the Lormier sales (see note 28 above). According to HdG himself DPG337 (his no. 288) was in the Van Sonne sale in 1752, while HdG’s no. 220 in 1739 was in the Hendrik Schut sale. In both cases no pair is mentioned. See also the preceding note. In the Lormier sales the picture that is supposed to be DPG337 is preceded by a picture on panel that has the same dimensions. However the two pictures are not referred to as a pair.

33 See note 31 above (HdG220).

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