Dulwich Picture Gallery II


Roelof Jansz. van VRIES

Haarlem, 1630/31–Amsterdam, in 1681 or after 1681/1701
Dutch painter and draughtsman

Roelof Jansz. van Vries was born in Haarlem and trained there as a painter of landscapes and architecture. His earliest known work is dated 1651. It is not certain that he is the same as Roelandt van Vries, who joined the Leiden guild in 1653. In 1659 he is recorded as marrying in Amsterdam, where he also is mentioned in 1661, 1667 and 1681. He is primarily known as a follower of Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/9–82). Van Vries’s signature was easily converted into Ruisdael’s monogram by later art dealers, which complicated the matter of working out the œuvres of the two artists. He was also inspired by the work of Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709), Jan Wijnants (1632–84) and Philips Wouwerman (1619–68). His brother Michiel van Vries (–d. Haarlem, 1682/1702) also executed works in Roelof’s style (Related works, no. 5) [2].


Thieme-Becker, xxxiv, 1940, p. 579; Van der Willigen & De Kinkelder 1993–8; Jager 2016, pp. 359–61 (as Roelof Jansz. de Vries); Ecartico, no. 8075: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/8075 (Oct. 15, 2017); RKDartists&, no. 82151: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/82151 (Oct. 15, 2017).

DPG7 – Landscape with a Tower

oak panel, 49.8 x 41.1 cm, including additions of 0.7 cm on all sides

?;1 Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 18, no. 170 (‘Closet in Upper Room: West / no. 4, Cottage, Tower, & Landscape by Wynants: figures P[anel] by Wouvermans’; 2'4" x 2'6".

Cat. 1817, p. 4, no. 38 (‘FIRST ROOM – West Side. A Landscape and Figures; Wynants & Wouvermans’); Haydon 1817, p. 373, no. 38;2 Cat. 1820, p. 4, no. 38 (Wynants & Wouwerman); Cat. 1830, p. 10, no. 208 (Wynants); Smith 1829–42, vi (1835), p. 278, no. 167 (Wynants; ‘Worth 80 gs.’);3 Jameson 1842, ii, p. 476, no. 208 (Wynants); Denning 1858, no. 208 (Wynants);4 not in Denning 1859; Sparkes 1876, p. 215, no. 208 (Wynants); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 62, no. 208 (Dutch School. Formerly ascribed to Wijnants); Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 2, no. 7; Cook 1914, p. 7, no. 7 (‘Dutch School (17th century). Very probably a work of Wynants’);5 Cook 1926, p. 7, no. 7 (Dutch School, 17th century); Cat. 1953, p. 44 (Wynants); Murray 1980a, p. 135 (first attribution to Roelof van Vries); Murray 1980b, p. 30; Beresford 1998, p. 254; Eisele 2000, p. 26, fig. V 1 (comparison with Jan Wijnants); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 285; RKD, no. 286425: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/286425 (Nov. 7, 2017).

Two-member oak panel with vertical grain. The panel has a slight concave warp. There are various mended splits in the panel (including the central join, which detached in the past); these were caused primarily by a cradle previously attached to its reverse. The panel has considerable woodworm damage and has been thinned and the sides cut a little in the past. There is some damage to paint and ground around the join and splits and the lower-right part of the paint surface has flake losses (now retouched). The sky has been abraded in some areas. Previous recorded treatment: 1937, frame and panel paraffined; 1952–3 and 1960/65, cleaned and retouched, Dr Hell; 2005, side battens removed, cleaned and retouched, S. Plender, and structural work carried out (including removal of the cradle), A. Reeve.

1) Roelof Jansz. van Vries, Pigeon House, signed V[R]IES, canvas, 36.8 x 30.5 cm. MMA, New York, 71.116 [1].6
2) Roelof van Vries, A View of a Village, panel, 64.8 x 49 cm. NG, London, NG134.7
3) Roelof van Vries, The Mill in the Wood, signed R. Vries f., canvas, 59 x 51 cm. Alte Pinakothek, Munich, 562.8
4a, 4b) Roelof van Vries, Tower by a Canal, one signed R. Vries f , panel, one 53 x 40, the other 53.3 x 40.1 cm. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, NM691 and 692.9
5) Michiel van Vries, River Landscape with Fishermen in a Rowing Boat near a City Wall, monogrammed M V V, panel, 36.1 x 48.6 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Christie’s, Amsterdam, 11 May 2005, lot 34) [2].10

From Bourgeois’ time until Murray’s catalogue in 1980 the picture was ascribed to Wijnants (and Wouwerman), or to the Dutch School. Denning records it in 1858 as being signed by Wijnants, so a forged signature may have been applied. If so, it had presumably been removed by 1880 when Richter and Sparkes relegated the picture to ‘Dutch School’. However other 20th-century scholars all agree, starting with Murray and Bernt in 1974, that Roelof van Vries was the artist, and that was published by Murray in 1980.11 Christopher Brown, Jeroen Giltaij and Marijke de Kinkelder all agreed.12

The painting shows a ruined tower to the right with brick buildings, and a wall bordering a stream. Various figures and animals stand at the left; in the opinion of Christopher Brown they are better than is usual in Van Vries’ work, making it likely that they are by another hand.13 The pyramidal composition is typical of Van Vries, and similar to that of his Pigeon House in New York (Related works, no. 1) [1], which is dated in the 1660s, and A View of a Village in London (early 1660s; Related works, no. 2). The way the brickwork is depicted, by means of small blobs of paint, is particularly characteristic: it can be seen in signed pictures by Van Vries (Related works, nos 3–4).

Roelof Jansz. van Vries
Landscape with a tower, c. 1650-1700
panel (oak), oil paint 49,8 x 41,1 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG7

Roelof Jansz. van Vries
Landscape with Pigeon House, 1660-1669
canvas, oil paint 36,8 x 30,5 cm
New York City, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv./cat.nr. 71.116

Michiel van Vries
River Landscape with Fishermen in a Rowing Boat near a City Wall
panel, oil paint 36,1 x 48,6 cm
lower left : M V V
Christie's (Amsterdam) 2005-05-11, nr. 34


1 It is not likely that this picture is the painting that came from Vienna (as is sometimes suggested; see below), where the collector Joseph Franz Anton, Graf von Waldburg-Zeil-Wurzach, had lived, as the dimensions given in the sale catalogue are those of an oblong picture, while this one is upright, and the dimensions are in any case different: Smith (1835), gives 1'8" x 1'4½", and Denning 1858 gives 1'7½" x 1'3¾". The provenance of the Vienna painting is Joseph Franz Anton, Graf von Waldburg-Zeil-Wurzach sale, Truchsessian Gallery, London, 14 May 1804 (not in Lugt), lot 399 (‘Vries – Landscape and ruinous tower’); the materials and dimensions are given in the 1803 descriptive catalogue as on wood, 1'10" x 2'6"); ?Skinner and Dyke, London, 27 March 1806 (Lugt 7049), lot 6 (‘Vries – A View on the Banks of a River, with the Ruins of a Tower, the reflection on the water admirably managed’), bt Meyer Solomon, £17 6s. For both sales see GPID (Nov. 27, 2017).

2 ‘John Wynants and Wouwerman. Landscape and Figures.’

3 Interestingly, DPG7 was valued higher than the ‘real’ pictures by Wijnants (DPG114 and DPG117), both valued at £50.

4 ‘The Exterior of a Fortification with round tower & moat. Smith values it at 80 guineas. A good picture S.P.D. This is a true picture and signed by the artist.’

5 ‘…Wynants […] to whom at one time the picture was ascribed.’

6 RKD, no. 297809: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/297809 (July 13, 2020); see also https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/110002375 (May 14, 2020); Liedtke 2007a, i, pp. 234, 500, ii, pp. 934–6, no. 215, colour pl. 215: ‘the style and composition […] are most consistent with landscape conventions of the 1660s’.

7 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/roelof-van-vries-a-view-of-a-village (July 13, 2020); MacLaren & Brown 1991, p. 476, no. 134.

8 Bernt 1980, p. 53, fig. 1436.

9 Cavalli-Björkman 2005, pp. 519–20, nos 515, 516.

10 RKD, no. 191627: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/191627 (Oct. 15, 2017).

11 Walther Bernt to Peter Murray, 25 Nov. 1974 (who clearly reacted to Murray’s suggestion that it was Roelof van Vries): ich bin leider dabei nicht ganz sicher, es wäre natürlich leichter, wenn ich das Original gesehen hätte. Die Staffage und die kontrastreiche Beleuchtung ist etwas ungewöhnliches im Oeuvre dieses Meisters. Doch bin ich überzeugt, dass Sie vor dem original die beste Lösung gefunden haben. (I am alas not completely sure; it would of course have been easier if I had seen the original. The staffage and the lighting full of contrasts are somewhat unusual in the œuvre of this master. But I am convinced that you have found the best solution in front of the original.)

12 Christopher Brown to Peter Murray, 18 Sept. 1974 (DPG7 file): ‘the foreground man with his two dogs is rather better than Vries’ usual figure style. Could he and his dogs be by another hand? Personally, I find it very hard to tell Vries apart from Gillis and Salomon Rombouts and, even more, from C. G. Decker.’ Letter from Jeroen Giltaij to Richard Beresford, 5 Sept. 1996 (DPG7 file), also mentions the agreement of Marijke de Kinkelder.

13 See the preceding note.

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