A River Estuary with “Smalschips”

Jan Josefsz Van Goyen

Goyen, Jan Josefsz Van

Leiden, 1596 - La Haya, 1656

A River Estuary with "Smalschips" , Fishermen, and Cattle Watering,1651

© Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Signed with monogram and dated: ''VG 16(5_)1''
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

Oil on panel

35,5 x 33,2 cm


Artwork history

  • Ludwig Lobmeyer. Sale Ludwig Lobmeyer Collection, lot 25 (16500 k), Vienna , 22th October 1917.

  • Christie´s, lot 85 (7000 guineas), London, 22th July 1966.

  • Leonard Koetser Gallery, London.

  • Alice Tully, 12- October 1966. (sale 30000 $).

  • Christie´s sale Alice Tully collection, lot 46, New York, 11- January 1995.

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.


Autumn Exhibition, London Leonard Koetser Gallery, n. 30. (dated 1641).


Aspectos de la tradición paisajística en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Málaga, Salas de Exposiciones del Palacio Episcopal, n. 2, p. 30.


De Van Dyck a Goya. Maestros Antiguos de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Castellón, Museo de Bellas Artes, n. 27, p. 106.

  • -Beck, Hans-Ulrich: Jan van Goyen, 1596-1656: Ein oeuvreverzeichnis. Ámsterdam, Van Gendt, 1972-1987 , vol. 2 (1973), n. 186, p. 91, lám. vol. 3 (1987), p. 163.

  • -Christie, Manson & Woods International Inc.: Important Old Master Paintings from the Collection of Alice Tully. [Auction Cat.]. New York, 11 -January 1995 , p. 46.

  • -Aspectos de la Tradición Paisajística en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Llorens Serra, Tomàs (ed.). [Exh. Cat. Málaga, Salas de Exposiciones del Palacio Episcopal]. Málaga, Fundación Unicaja, 1999, n. 2, p. 30. [Sheet Peter C. Sutton].

  • -De Van Dyck a Goya. Maestros Antiguos de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Castellón, Museo de Bellas Artes [Exhib. Cat. Museo Bellas Artes, Castellón], 2001, n. 27, p. 106.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 1, p. 96, lám. p. 97 [ Sheet Peter C. Sutton].


Expert report

In an upright composition depicting an estuary nearly four fifths of the scene is devoted to the dramatic, cloud-filled sky. The immediate foreground features a spit of land with the silhouettes of a fishing boat with three occupants, wood pilings and, to the right, two cows. At the back is a sailing vessel known as a smalschip heavily weighted with passengers and towing a dinghy. Other sailing vessels appear to either side. A second spit of land with cottages and a leading mark projects from the left, and in the distance rises a church with a blunt tower reminiscent of that of the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht, an edifice that Van Goyen depicted repeatedly.

Van Goyen painted scenes of still rivers and estuaries throughout his life, but only seems to have begun depicting inland waterways on an upright format in 1638. Subsequently he dated similarly designed river views in 1643, 1646, 1651 and 1655. The date on the present painting was deciphered as 1641 when it was exhibited in London at Leonard Koetser´s Gallery in 1966, but it was plausibly suggested that it should be read as 1651 by Hans-Ulrich Beck. The bolder contrasts of tone and introduction of passages of colour in the sky support the later dating. Though depicting a scene with rougher seas, the upright marine in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, no. 1249, exhibits a comparable technique and palette. Compare also the painting dated 1655 with a very similar composition in the collection of Mrs. Francis Hock, London. Perhaps more poetically than any other Dutch landscapist, van Goyen captured the peaceful rhythms and quiet beauty of quotidian activities on Holland´s watery highways. The simple lives of men and beasts go on with surprising obliviousness to the towering display of the heavens overhead.

Peter C. Sutton