Enkhuizen, baptised 20 November 1625 in the Reformed Church–Amsterdam, buried 17 January 1654 in the Nieuwezijds Kapel
Dutch painter, draughtsman and printmaker
Paulus Potter  was the son of the little-known painter Pieter Potter (c. 1597/1600–1652). After moving to Amsterdam with his family some time before 1631, he was active in his father’s workshop, producing history subjects under the influence of the Amsterdam history painter Claes Moeyaert (1591–1655). In 1642 he is recorded as having paid Jacob de Wet I (c. 1610–77/91), also a history painter, for painting lessons. In the mid-1640s he turned to portraying animals. In 1646 and 1649 respectively Potter joined the painters’ guilds of Delft and The Hague. He began to specialize in small-scale animal studies, although he occasionally produced much larger pictures, such as the more than life-size, and very famous, Young Bull of 1647 in the Mauritshuis .1 In 1650 he married the daughter of the city architect of The Hague, where he seems to have been living, and he also began to receive commissions from Amalia van Solms-Braunfels (1602–75), the widow of the Stadholder, Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange (1584–1647). In 1651 he was sued for failing to deliver commissioned paintings. In the following year he moved to Amsterdam, where he painted an equestrian portrait of Dirck Tulp (Six collection, Amsterdam) .2 Potter died of tuberculosis.
Potter was the third Dutch 17th-century painter about whom a monograph was published in the Netherlands in the 19th century (1867), only just after Rembrandt (1853) and Jan Steen (1856), a clear sign of his canonical status.3
Walsh 1989; Walsh, Buijsen & Broos 1994; Walsh 1996; Buijsen 1998, pp. 224–9; Saur, xcvi, 2017, p. 415 (I. M. Veldman); Ecartico, no. 6113: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/6113 (May 22, 2017); RKDartists&, no. 64519: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/64519 (May 22, 2017).
Bartholomeus van der Helst
Portrait of Paulus Potter (1625-1654), dated 1654
canvas, oil paint 99 x 80 cm
upper left : B. vander.helst. / 1654
The Hague, Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen Mauritshuis, inv./cat.nr. 54
The bull, dated 1647
canvas, oil paint 235,5 x 339 cm
left center : Paulus Potter/f. 1647
The Hague, Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen Mauritshuis, inv./cat.nr. 136
Equestrian portrait of Dirk (Diederik) Tulp (1624-1682), dated 1653
canvas, oil paint 310 x 274 cm
lower right : Paulus Potter f. / 1653
Amsterdam, Six Stichting
After Paulus Potter
DPG334 – Cattle and Sheep
Late 17th century; oak panel, 38.4 x 53 cm
Inscribed, bottom right: Paulus Potter
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 23, no. 225 (‘Drawing Room / no. 13, Three Oxen, a Sheep & Tree in forg.d Lande P[anel] “P Potter”’; 2'2" x 2'8").
Cat. 1817, p. 8, no. 121 (‘SECOND ROOM – West Side; A Landscape, with Cows and Sheep; P. Potter’); Haydon 1817, p. 381, no. 121; Cat. 1820, p. 8, no. 121; Cat. 1830, p. 3, no. 7; Jameson 1842, ii, p. 444, no. 7;4 Denning 1858, no. 7 ((after?) Potter);5 Denning 1859, no. 7 ([in pencil: ‘ascribed to’] Potter; ‘If this picture be genuine, it is not a fair criterion of his power’); Sparkes 1876, p. 119, no. 7 (ascribed to Potter); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 117, no. 7 (after Potter; ‘The signature […] is forged. A clever imitation of this artist.’); Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 93, no. 334; Cook 1914, p. 204; Cook 1926, p. 190; Cat. 1953, p. 31 (after Potter); Murray 1980a, p. 301 (after Potter); Beresford 1998, p. 180 (after Potter?); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 158–9 (after Paulus Potter?); Dumas 2021a, fig. 3 (after Paulus Potter); RKD, no. 284562: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/284562 (May 24, 2017).
Two-member oak panel. The verso edges are bevelled. There is considerable discoloured restoration in the sky and on the distant horizon, and very slight blistering of the paint in this area. The ‘Paulus Potter’ signature at the bottom right is false. The varnish is thick and discoloured. Previous recorded treatment: 1934, several old holes in panel treated with light application of paraffin.
1) Prime version, present whereabouts unknown: ‘POTTER. (Paulus). Hoog 16, en breed 23 duim [41.1 x 59.1 cm]. Pnl (panel). Een grazige Heuvel, op welken drie Koeijen en een Schaap verbeeld zyn; in ’t verschiet ziet men een Dorp, en op den tweeden grond een koets met vier Paarden. De behandeling van dit stuk is Meesteragtig van penseel en uitvoering (A grassy hill, on which three cows and a sheep are depicted; in the distance is a village, and in the second ground a carriage with four horses. The treatment of this piece is masterful in brush and execution), Braamcamp sale, Amsterdam, 31 July–3 August 1771 (Lugt 1950), p. 71, lot 170, bt Pieter Yver ƒ1,300.6
2a) Gerrit Dadelbeek after Paulus Potter (1), Landscape with three cows and a sheep, pen and brown and grey ink, watercolour, 390 x 540 mm, not signed. Inscribed verso (in a later hand): t Origineel hier van in de Verkoping, van de Heer G: Braamcamp No 170 – en is verkogt 1 Augustus 1771, in ’t publique Veiling voor f 1300- aan de Heer Pieter Yver // Berghem [sic] (The original of this in the auction of Mr. G: Braamcamp No 170 – and was sold on 1 August 1771, in a public Auction for f 1300– to Mr. Pieter Yver // Berghem [sic]). Private collection, Munich .7
2b) Copy after Paulus Potter (1), Three Cows and a Lamb, panel, 41 x 52 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Nyon, coll. Martinet, 1944; Genève, coll. Eugène Heimgartner, 1926; J. J. Chapuis sale, Brussels, 4 Dec. 1865 (Lugt 28728), lot 317, bt Warneck, 575 frs; Louis Rapédius de Berg sale, Malines, 29 May 1839 (Lugt 15469), lot 50, bt Chapuis 480 frs).8
2c) Copy after Paulus Potter (1), without sheep and carriage, Cattle Piece, previously signed and dated 1650, panel, 38 x 52 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (La Borderie sale, Fischer, Lucerne, 19 July 1927, lot 82; Charles Sedelmeyer (1837–1925) collection, Paris; photo RKD).
2d) Copy after Paulus Potter (1), attributed to Hendrick ten Oever, Cattle Piece, previously signed and dated 1650, panel, 38 x 52 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Sotheby’s, Amsterdam, 18 Nov. 1985, lot 12; Bossers collection, Rotterdam, 1985; Querido art dealers, Amsterdam; Hirschel art dealers, Amsterdam c. 1940; photo RKD).
This is a typical Potter composition, significantly better than the other works at Dulwich formerly attributed to him. It would appear to be a copy after a lost composition by the artist. After the 2016 catalogue was published Charles Dumas brought to my attention a drawn copy by the 18th-century Dutch artist Gerrit Dadelbeek (1731–81), now in a private collection in Munich (Related works, no. 2a) . That drawing, which has about the same dimensions as DPG334, has an inscription that refers to the original by Paulus Potter (Related works, no. 1), which was sold in Amsterdam in 1771 from the collection of the very famous Amsterdam collector Gerret Braamcamp (1699–1771) . At that auction both the Potter picture and the Dadelbeek drawing were for sale, which suggests that Dadelbeek had made the copy for Braamcamp, who was in the habit of having contemporary artists make copies of works in his collection.9 In 1795 the Potter picture was in London, but after that its whereabouts are unknown. The Dulwich copyist left the carriage with the horses out. Two other copies of the composition are known (Related works, nos. 2c and 2d). Both were – falsely – signed and dated 1650, and almost identical in size to the Dulwich picture. Significant differences, however, are that neither includes the sheep visible here, and that the second copy omits the village in the background and adds another branch to the tree. A similar or largely identical composition may be that described by Hofstede de Groot (Related works, no. 2b).
after Paulus Potter
Cattle and a sheep, 1650-1699
panel (oak) 38,4 x 53 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG334
Gerrit Dadelbeek after Paulus Potter
Landscape with three cows and a sheep, 1746-1771
paper, pen in brown and grey ink, aquarel paint (watercolor) 390 x 540 mm
Reinier Vinkeles after Jacob Xavery
Portrait of Gerrit Braamcamp (1699-1771), dated 1766
paper, etching ? x ? cm
lower right : R. Vinkeles Sculp. 1766
The Hague, RKD – Nederlands Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis (Collectie Iconografisch Bureau)
Manner of Paulus Potter
DPG324 – Cattle
17th century?; oak panel, 13.9 x 17.4 cm, excluding additions of 2.9 cm at the top, 1.9 cm at the bottom, 2.8 cm on the left and 3 cm on the right
Insurance 1804, no. 104 (‘P. Potter – A small Landscape with Cows’), £50; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 2, no. 15 (‘Small Parlour / no. 15, Landscape with 2 cows – compn to 13 [= DPG51]. Pan[el] P. Potter’; 13' x 1'6").
Cat. 1817, p. 8, no. 137 (‘SECOND ROOM – West Side; Two Cows; P. Potter’); Haydon 1817, p. 383, no. 137; Cat. 1820, p. 8, no. 137 (Potter); Cat. 1830, p. 4, no. 22 (Potter); Jameson 1842, ii, p. 447, no. 22; Denning 1858, no. 22 (ascribed to Potter; ‘Certainly not Paul Potter’s’); Denning 1859, no. 22 (‘Dutch? Unknown’; ‘This picture was formerly ascribed to Paul Potter. It might be by one of his school’); Sparkes 1876, p. 119, no. 22 (ascribed to Potter); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 117, no. 22 (after Potter; ‘A clever imitation of the master; probably taken from one of his authentic paintings’); Richter & Sparkes 1892, p. 90, no. 324; Richter & Sparkes 1905, pp. 90–91, no. 324; HdG, iv, 1911, p. 647, no. 77j (Engl. edn 1912, p. 621);10 Cook 1914, p. 200;11 Cook 1926, pp. 186–7; Cat. 1953, p. 31 (copy after); Murray 1980a, p. 301 (after Potter); Beresford 1998, p. 180 (Manner of Potter); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 158–9 (Manner of Paulus Potter); RKD, no. 284564: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/284564 (May 24, 2017).
Oak panel with additions on all sides. The additions are not properly joined to the panel and the gaps are visible and very distracting. There is a crack in the lower addition where it has been stuck to the central panel. The reverse is very thinly primed or painted. The paint of the left addition appears darker than that of the central panel. The varnish is very discoloured. No previous recorded conservation treatment.
The painting is a mediocre attempt at the style of Potter, and it is not inconceivable that it was produced by Sir Francis Bourgeois, who almost certainly made additions to the sides to produce dimensions similar to DPG51 by Adriaen van de Velde (1636–72). The two paintings were described as a pair in the 1813 inventory of Bourgeois’ collection. The pose of the reclining cow is very similar to another work at Dulwich once attributed to Potter, DPG334.
pasticcio after Paulus Potter
panel (oak) 13,9 x 17,4 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG324
After Paulus Potter
DPG343 – A Cow
17th century; canvas on panel, 19.8 x 13.6 cm, including a strip of c. 1.9 cm added at the right edge
Bourgeois Bequest 1811; Britton 1813, p. 32, no. 333 (‘Unhung / no. 64, Cow in a Landscape – P[anel] P. Potter’; 11" x 9").
Cat. 1817, p. 3, no. 5 (‘FIRST ROOM – South Side; A Cow; P. Potter’); Haydon 1817, p. 370, no. 5; Cat. 1820, p. 3, no. 5 (Potter); Cat. 1830, p. 5, no. 70 (Potter); Jameson 1842, ii, p. 454, no. 71 [sic]; Denning 1858, no. 70 (ascribed to P. Potter; ‘Perhaps by Van Hagen’; ‘A piece cut out of a larger picture – a fine study’); Denning 1859, no. 70;12 Sparkes 1876, p. 119, no. 70 (ascribed to Potter; ‘A vigorous sketch […] All well touched’); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 62 (Dutch School; ‘Formerly ascribed to Paul Potter’); Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 95, no. 343; Cook 1914, p. 207 (Dutch School; ‘A piece cut out of a larger picture; a fine study (Denning)’; Cook 1926, p. 192; Cat. 1953, p. 19; Murray 1980a, p. 301 (Dutch School); Beresford 1998, p. 180, no. 343 (Manner of Potter; ‘Apparently a fragment’); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 158–9 (after Paulus Potter); RKD, no 284565: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/284565 (May 24, 2017).
Plain-weave coarse linen canvas laid on panel. The main support is a single-member oak panel with an addition of similar wood with different grain on the right edge. The verso edges are bevelled. The ground is light red. The paint is thickly applied. The canvas seems well attached to the wooden support except for the area of the join. There is fine cupping in the trees above the cow, showing the ground in places. There is abrasion in the shoulder of the cow and in the tree trunk. The varnish is discoloured and uneven and is slightly scuffed in places. There is some surface dirt, particularly in the dips of the impasto. Previous recorded treatment: 1953–5, Dr Hell.
1) Paulus Potter, Cattle and Sheep in a Stormy Landscape, signed and dated Paulus. Potter : f. 1647, panel, 46.3 x 37.8 cm. NG, London, 2583 .13
Although it first appeared in Bourgeois’ collection as by Potter, A Cow was demoted to ‘Dutch School’ in 1880, and remained there until 1998, when Richard Beresford presented it as ‘Manner of Potter’. This seems fair, as the picture is stylistically in keeping with that artist’s work, though it is clearly not by him in quality, nor does it follow any of his known compositions. Until more is known of the many artists who copied, pastiched, or imitated Potter’s work, during his lifetime and after his death, the Dulwich picture must remain anonymous. It is however easy to agree with Denning’s judgment in 1858 that it is ‘a fine study’. The ‘Van Hagen’ that he suggested had painted it was probably the landscape painter Joris van der Haagen (c. 1615–69) of The Hague.
Most of the animals in Potter’s paintings are at rest or grazing; this cow is not. There is some similarity with the standing bull in Cattle and Sheep in a Stormy Landscape in the Nationa Gallery (Related works, no. 1) . DPG343 may be a fragment of a much larger composition. It is probably because of the positive comments of Denning and Sparkes that it hung in the Gallery at least until 1892.
after Paulus Potter
canvas on panel, oil paint 19,8 x 13,6 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG343
Cattle and sheep in a stormy landscape, dated 1647
panel, oil paint 46,3 x 37,8 cm
lower left : Paulus. Potter : f. 1647
London, National Gallery (London), inv./cat.nr. 2583
1 RKD, no. 205634: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/205634 (May 23, 2017). The stadholder’s possessions were taken by the French troops to Paris, and the picture was on show in the Louvre around 1800: it was very much admired, and Potter was compared to Raphael. Bergvelt 1998, p. 69; Hoes 1988, pp. 89–90.
3 Scheltema 1853 (French edn 1866); Van Westrheene 1856; Van Westrheene 1867.
4 ‘His merits must not be judged by this little picture; his finest works now in England are in the private collections of her Majesty, the Marquis of Westminster, and Lord Ashburton.’
5 ‘This is perhaps an original but as Mrs. Jameson says “his merits must not be judged by this little picture.”’
6 With many thanks to Charles Dumas, who pointed out that the original of DPG334 by Potter was depicted in the drawing by Gerrit Dadelbeek (Related works, no. 2a): emails to Ellinoor Bergvelt, 25 Nov. to 1 Dec. 2020 (DPG334 file). See also his forthcoming article about Dadelbeek, Dumas 2021a. After the Braamcamp sale the Potter picture was probably on the market in London: de Calonne sale, Skinner and Dyke, 28 March 1795 (Lugt 5289), lot 104 ‘Potter; A GROUP OF CATTLE. Possibly no picture can be more deserving to authenticate the reputation of the imcomparable [sic] and scarce master, he unites boldness and effect with delicate accuracy of drawing, the animals appear not like painting, but the real objects. This artist in Holland, is esteemed the father of animals painters. It was formerly in the cabinet of Mons. Braam-Camp, of Amsterdam’; sold £ 325:10:-. See Bille 1962, ii, pp. 41–41a, no. 170, p. 112, no. 170; HdG, iv, 1911, p. 640, no. 59 (Engl. edn, 1912, p. 614); Smith 1829–42, v, (1834), p. 129, no. 24.
7 The inscription says that the original was by Nicolaes Berchem (1621/2–83), which is clearly a mistake, since no. 170 in the sale catalogue is a picture by Paulus Potter (see Related works, no. 1). Provenance: Amsterdam, coll. Gerret Braamcamp; his sale Amsterdam, 31 July–3 Aug. 1771 (Lugt 1950), p. 144, Konstboek A. Waarin gecouleurde tekeningen (Album A with coloured drawings), no. 62: Drie Ossen en een Schaap, staande en rustende by een Boom op een grasigen heuvel; in ’t verschiet ziet men een koets met vier Paarden bespannen, en wat verder een Dorpgezicht; getekend door DADELBEEK, naar ’t origineel van Ps. Potter, dat in dit Kabinet word gevonden, (pag. 71. No. 170.)’ (Three Oxen and a Sheep, standing and resting by a tree on a grassy hill; in the distance you see a carriage with four horses, and a little further on a view of a village; drawn by DADELBEEK, after the original by Ps. Potter, which is in this cabinet, see p. 71, no. 170). Purchased Ploos van Amstel ƒ14:10:-. See Dumas 2021a, fig. 1.
8 HdG, iv, 1911, p. 640, no. 59 (Engl. edn, 1912, p. 614): ‘Three Cows and a Lamb – One cow is lying down. Of the two standing, one rubs itself against a tree, at the foot of which lies a lamb. On the right is a wagon with four horses. In the distance is a town.’
9 As appears in the sale catalogue of 1771, where several drawings are mentioned which are copies of pictures in the same collection by Dadelbeek and other artists; see also Bille 1962, i, p. 45 (Dadelbeek) and pp. 46–7 (Willem Joseph Laquy).
10 Hofstede de Groot suggested that DPG324 was a picture that Bourgeois bought from the London dealer Michael Bryan (Christie’s, 28 April 1798, lot 82, ‘Potter – A small landscape with cattle, and figures, a beautiful cabinet picture of this scarce and admired master’, bt Sir F. Bourgeois for £15.15), but that seems unlikely since it lacks figures.
11 ‘This is probably the picture which Bourgeois bought at the Bryan sale in 1798 for 15 guineas.’ That is not likely: see the preceding note.
12 ‘This is a piece cut out of a larger picture, and may be by Paul Potter, but more probably by some one of his numerous followers. It has been suggested that Van Hagen (1635–1679) painted it.’
13 RKD, no. 296129: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/296129 (May 5, 2020); see also https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/paulus-potter-cattle-and-sheep-in-a-stormy-landscape (May 5, 2020); MacLaren & Brown 1991, i, p. 315, ii, fig. 274.