First published by Laurens Bol in 1989, this picture holds a central position within the early years of the artist's activity in Middelburg. Bol dated it 1615-20 and Edwin Buijsen of the RKD, The Hague, has more recently proposed a date of 1615-16 on stylistic grounds. Much of the Van de Venne's output from this period was produced in celebration of the new found peace and prosperity delivered by Prince Maurits of Orange-Nassau following his signing of the Twelve Years Truce with the Southern Netherlands in 1609, and rarely is the mood as idyllic as that elicited by the present work. Drawing on the pictorial tradition of the Garden of Love, elegantly dressed people are shown picnicking, playing music, boating and swimming on a summer's day around the moat of a castle. The picnic on the warterfront figures more prominently in a Summer Landscape by Van de Venne dated 1621 in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, that probably belonged to a set of the Four Seasons. The centrally based boat adorned with a bower of leaves may have been inspired by a similar motif in a Summer Landscape from a print series of the Four Seasons by Hessel Gerrits after a design by David Vinckboons.
In this period it is well known that the artist was inclined to paint landscapes of this kind in pairs or sets, as for example, the Summer and Winter pair, dated 1614, in the Staatliche Museum, Berlin, and the set of Four Seasons, dated 1615, (Los Angeles, Getty Museum; and Massachusetts, Worcester Art Museum), of which the Summer was sold in these Rooms (5 July 2007, lot 52). In this respect, Buijsen has pointed out the strong likelihood that this picture originally formed a pair to a Winter landscape with skaters, of the same dimensions (panel, 39 x 75 cm.), whose whereabouts have been unknown since its sale at Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 8 November 1940, lot 11, as 'Aert van der Neer', and whose attribution to Van de Venne was first proposed by Gudlaugsson in a written annotation to the photograph in the RKD files.
We are very grateful to Edwin Buijsen of the RKD, The Hague, for confirming the attribution and for his assistance with this entry.