Dulwich Picture Gallery I


Anthonie van BORSSOM

Amsterdam, baptised 2 January 1631–Amsterdam, buried 19 March 1677, Westerkerk
Dutch painter of landscapes and draughtsman

His early training is unknown. It is commonly thought that Anthonie van Borssom might have been a pupil of Rembrandt (he is included in Sumowski’s overview of Rembrandt’s pupils). Indeed some of his drawings show Rembrandt’s influence, but no documents have been found that support that idea. Van Borssom was a prolific draughtsman, but it seems he was not a particularly productive painter. He travelled in the Rhineland near Cleves, where he made studies between 1651 and 1656. His landscapes show several influences, and are mainly in the manner of Philips Koninck (1619–88), Paulus Potter (1625–54), Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/9–82), Aert van der Neer (1603–77), and Jan Wijnants (1632–84). It has been difficult to establish a chronology of his works, as only five autograph works are dated, between 1655 and 1671, and these reveal little stylistic development.

Sumowski 1983–94, i, 1983, pp. 426–56; Chong 1987a; Broos 1996b; Saur, xiii, 1996, p. 129 (U. Hanschke); Ecartico, no. 1229; http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/1229 (June 2, 2017); RKDartists&, no. 10858: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/10858 (June 2, 2017).

DPG133 – Landscape with Cattle

c. 1655–77; canvas, 112.7 x 154.9 cm

?Insurance 1804, no. 92: ‘A Large Landscape with Cattle Paul Potter £ 400’; possibly mentioned by the Rev. Bray in a note dated 15 January 1804;1 Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 22, no. 214 (‘Drawing Room / no. 2, Landscape, with cows in water – C[anvas]. P. Potter’; 5'6" x 6'6").

Cat. 1817, p. 9, no. 154 (‘SECOND ROOM – East Side; Cattle drinking; P. Potter’); Haydon 1817, p. 385, no. 154;2 Cat. 1820, p. 9, no. 154 (Potter); Cat. 1830, p. 9, no. 176 (‘Landscape, with Cattle; Cuyp); Bray 1836, iii, p. 310;3 Jameson 1842, ii, p. 471, no. 176 (?);4 Ruskin 1843, pt. ii, sec. v, ch. i (Of Water, as Painted by the Ancients), p. 337 (Potter);5 Denning 1858 and 1859, no. 176 (Camphuysen?);6 Sparkes 1876, p. 120, no. 176 (school of Potter); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 14, no. 176 (Abraham van Borssom; ‘Very careful in execution’); Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 34, no. 133 (Van Borssom); Wurzbach, i, 1906, p. 143 (Anthony van Borssom); Cook 1914, p. 79, no. 133 (Abraham van Borssom); Cook 1926, p. 74, no. 133, Cat. 1953, p. 11; Murray 1980a, p. 299 (Van Borssom); Sumowski 1983–94, i, 1983, p. 429, under no. 199 (Related works, no. 1), p. 444 (fig.; Anthonie van Borssom);7 Beresford 1998, pp. 42–3 (Anthonie van Borssum); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 36; RKD no. 284638: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/284638 (June 12, 2017).

Medium plain-weave linen canvas. The reddish-brown ground is clearly visible through abraded areas of the pale sky. Lined onto linen; no original tacking edges remain. There is an old crease along the bottom edge. The painting is very worn and has been heavily damaged by over-cleaning at some point in the past, which has removed most of the landscape centre-right and revealed two more cows. These are severely abraded and are thought to have been repainted at some point in the past (possibly by Bourgeois); the red cow is particularly damaged and may still bear some overpaint. On the left there is a pentimento of a large seated figure. A figure in the landscape on the right, to the right of the dog, has also been painted out. The partially removed varnish is very discoloured and distracting – there are remnants along the bottom, particularly in the corners, which are uneven and have noticeable drip marks. Previous recorded treatment: 1911, relined, Holder; 1949–55, partially cleaned, overpaint partially removed, Dr Hell.

1) Anthonie van Borssom, Cowherd in a Pool, signed AVBorssom fecit, canvas, 103 x 168 cm. Städtische Kunst- und Gemäldesammlung, Bamberg [1].8
2) Another signed variant: canvas, 71.5 x 92 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Christie’s, 9 July 2004, lot 33; Phillips, London, 10 July 2001, lot 111; Dorotheum, Vienna, 30 March 2000, lot 82; Christie’s, New York, 31 Jan. 1997, lot 65; Rothschild collection) [2].9
Lent to the RA to be copied in 1837 and 1852.

This picture was long attributed to Paulus Potter, probably only because of the subject. Already in 1842 Mrs Jameson noted that although it was well painted, it was not by Potter.10 Denning in his 1858 and 1859 catalogues also had doubts about the attribution, but he too liked the painting.11 Ruskin, on the other hand, believed in the Potter attribution but criticized the picture for not being naturalistic enough, noting that ‘while this water receives clear reflections from the fence and hedge on the left, and is everywhere smooth and evidently capable of giving true images, it yet reflects none of the cows.’12

The painting was first attributed to ‘Abraham van Borssom’ by Richter and Sparkes in 1880; in 1906 Wurzbach named Anthony van Borssom as the maker; but the DPG catalogues then returned to ‘Abraham van Borssom’ or only ‘Van Borssom’. Sumowski in 1983 rightly called the artist ‘Anthonie’, and noted a signed variant in Bamberg (Related works, no. 1). A second related, and also signed, picture was recently on the London art market (Related works, no. 2) [1]. These pictures vary only in the position of some of the cows, and minor details; the landscape setting is nearly identical. Cleaning presumably carried out between 1949 and 1955 revealed two cows in the centre of the picture which were severely abraded and which had been overpainted with a continuation of the landscape.

Landscape with Cattle may have been in Desenfans’ possession in 1804, when a picture by Potter is mentioned in an account of a visit to Desenfans’ house by the Rev. Bray, who wrote, ‘In the drawing room is a chef d’œuvre of Cuyp; but in another [room] a cattle piece by Potter, superior to anything of the former.’13 In Britton’s inventory made in 1813 there was no Cuyp in the Drawing Room; there was one in the Small Drawing Room, but the most important Cuyps were hanging in the Library. So some rehang must have been carried out between 1804 and 1813.

Anthonie van Borssom
Landscape with cattle, c. 1651-1677
canvas, oil paint 112,7 x 154,9 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG133

Anthonie van Borssom
Extensive landscape with cattle at a watering place
canvas, oil paint 71,5 x 91,4 cm
lower left : A BorsSom f.
Christie's (London (England)) 2004-07-09, nr. 33


1 A visit to the collection of Desenfans is described (Bray 1836, iii, pp. 307–10), where Bray is received by Bourgeois (p. 310): see quote in main text before note 13.

2 ‘Paul Potter. Cattle drinking at a pond in the fore-ground; a distant flat country with hills in the distance, and a farm-house in the middle distance. The water is lucid, clear, and transparent; the cattle particularly fine.’

3 See main text before note 13.

4 ‘–? Attributed here to Paul Potter, but certainly not by him. It is very well painted.’

5 ‘§20. And of Paul Potter, in casting no reflections from half-a-dozen objects. Again, in the picture attributed to Paul Potter, No. 176. Dulwich Gallery [DPG133], I believe most people must feel, the moment they look at it, that there is something wrong with the water, that it looks odd, and hard, and like ice or lead; and though they may not be able to tell the reason of the impression, for when they go near they will find it smooth and lustrous, and prettily painted, yet they will not be able to shake off the unpleasant sense of its being like a plate of bad mirror set in a model landscape among moss, rather than like a pond. The reason is, that while this water receives clear reflections from the fence and hedge on the left, and is every where smooth and evidently capable of giving true images, it yet reflects none of the cows.’

6 ‘A good picture, but parts of it are not fine enough for Paul Potter. It might be by Camphuysen.’

7 According to Sumowski (1983–94, i, 1983, p. 429) the Dulwich painting is Eine schlecht erhaltene, nicht reproduktionsfähige Variante der Komposition [of the Bamberg picture, Related works, no. 1], zum Teil mit identische Tieren (A badly preserved, not reproducible version of the composition [of Related works, no. 1], in part with identical animals).

8 Sumowski 1983–94, i (1983), p. 429, no. 199.

9 ibid., under no. 199 (Related works. no. 1): Ein offenbar ähnliches Gemälde – ‘Landschaft mit Kühen, die durch einen Tümpel nach Hause getrieben werden’ – war in der Sammlung Rothschild in Paris (A clearly similar picture – ‘Landscape with cows, which are being driven home through a pond’ – was in the Rothschild collection in Paris). Sumowski refers for this picture to Wurzbach 1906–11, i (1906), p. 143. See RKD, no. 26834: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/26834 (June 2, 2017).

10 See note 4 above.

11 See note 6 above.

12 See note 5 above.

13 See note 1 above.

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