In this picture, Jan van Goyen skilfully employed a highly efficient painting technique as a means of capturing the close relationship between air and sea that defines the Dutch landscape. Here, a cloud-filled sky dominates the composition, with only a thin horizon line dividing it from the water below. To create such naturalistic scenes, Van Goyen traversed the Netherlands making sketches, which he then used in the studio to create highly finished drawings and paintings. In the 1640s, he produced a number of city views (H.-U. Beck, 'The Preliminary Drawing for Jan van Goyen's Views of Nijmegen', Master Drawings, vol. 34, no. 2, Summer, 1996, p. 192). This painting of Dordrecht is dated 1646, as is a scene of Haarlem now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inventory no. 71.62) and another of Rhenen belonging to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (inventory no. 26.95). The present work would be easily identifiable to contemporary viewers as Dordrecht through the distinctive silhouettes of the ruins of the Huis ter Merwede and the tower of the Grote Kerk, reconstructed after a fire in 1457. In the early 1650s, Dordrecht-born Aelbert Cuyp depicted the same subject from another vantage point in a painting now in Kenwood House, London.
In the late 1920s, this picture entered the collection of Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. At around the same time, this illustrious collector acquired Rembrandt's Man in a gorget and cap, also offered in this sale (lot 24). The two pictures were to remain together for some forty-five years, passing by inheritance to Thyssen-Bornemisza's daughter Countess Batthyány, before entering the Swiss collection of the van Stratum family.