Jacob van Ruisdael (Haarlem 1628/29-1682 Amsterdam)
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Jacob van Ruisdael (Haarlem 1628/29-1682 Amsterdam)

A mountainous landscape with a waterfall and a castle

Jacob van Ruisdael (Haarlem 1628/29-1682 Amsterdam)
A mountainous landscape with a waterfall and a castle
signed 'JvRuisdael' (lower right, 'JvR' in ligature)
oil on canvas
37 x 33 7/8 in. (94 x 86.1 cm.)
Count Adam Gottlob Moltke (1710-1792), Copenhagen, by 1756, and by descent to,
Count Frederik Christian Moltke (1854-1936), Copenhagen; his sale, Winkel and Magnussen, Copenhagen, 1 June 1931 (=1st day), lot 116 (kr. 35,100).
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 14 May 1965, lot 125.
Anonymous sale; Arne Bruun Rasmussen, Copenhagen, 23 February 1993, lot 70.
with Bob P. Haboldt & Co, Richard Feigen & Otto Naumann, New York, 1993, from whom acquired by the present owner.
(Possibly) G. Morell, Katalog der Gemäldesammlung Adam Gottlob Moltke (unpublished manuscript, Copenhagen, Royal Museum of Fine Arts), Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen, 1756, no. 211, or 212.
N.H. Weinwich, Udforlig raisoneret fortegnelse over en samling malerier i Kiobenhavn thilhorende Hs. Excellence Geheime Conferentsraad Greve F.C. Moltke, Copenhagen, 1818, pp. 57-9.
N. Hoyen, Fortegnelse over den Moltkeske Malerisamling, Copenhagen, 1841.
J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the most eminent Dutch Flemish and French Painters, London, 1842, IX, p. 711, no. 94.
N. Hoyen, Fortegnelse over den Moltkeske Malerisamling, Copenhagen, 1866, p. 29, no. 59.
N. Hoyen and F.C. Kiœrskou, Catalogue des tableaux de la collection du comte de Moltke, Copenhagen, 1885, pp. 32-33, no. 59.
N. Hoyen and K. Madsen, Fortegnelse over den Moltkeske Malerisamling, Copenhagen, 1905, p. 33, no. 59.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, London, 1912, IV, p.79, no. 236.
Musée de Tableaux du Comte de Moltke, Copenhagen, 1913, p. 22, no. 59.
J. Rosenberg, Jacob van Ruisdael, Berlin, 1928, p. 83, no. 176.
S. Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, Drawings and Etchings, London, 2001, p. 177, no. 175, illustrated.
Madrid, Fundacion Coleccion Thyssen-Bornemisza, The Golden Age of Dutch Landscape Painting, 11 November 1994-12 February 1995, no. 56.
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Henry Pettifer
Henry Pettifer

Lot Essay

Waterfalls, usually situated in rugged mountains were Ruisdael’s favourite subject, constituting the largest single speciality in his varied oeuvre. While many of these works recall Scandinavian scenery, the artist is not known to have visited the region himself and most writers assume that he was inspired by the landscapes of Allart van Everdingen (1621-1675), who travelled to the south-eastern coast of Norway and to Göteborg in western Sweden in 1644, before settling in Ruisdael's native Haarlem the following year. Ruisdael re-settled in Haarlem very shortly after Everdingen’s return and soon began to use the latter’s designs as a point of departure for his own work, experimenting with rugged, even mountainous landscapes, introducing rocky waterfalls and running streams, perhaps also inspired by his own trips to the Dutch-German border.
While the compositions of his waterfalls were clearly informed by Everdingen’s example, Ruisdael enhanced the drama of his landscapes with more theatrical lighting effects, steeper compositions in which virtually the entire foreground and as much as two-thirds of the scene is filled with crashing and foaming water, and a more descriptive account of the rocks, cascades and vegetation. Given the lack of dated pictures, establishing a chronology for this group has proved challenging, however, they are usually assigned to the late 1650s or 1660s, with those on an upright format preceding those on a horizontal. Slive proposed a date of circa 1665 for this painting (op. cit.). Among the artist’s waterfall paintings which most closely resemble the present work and which also include a castle, are two paintings in the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; and a painting formerly in the Girardet Collection, Kettwig (see Rosenberg, op. cit., nos. 142, 143 and 121 respectively).
So intimately was Ruisdael’s art connected with the theme of the waterfall that the chronicler of artists’ lives, Arnold Houbraken (1721), and well as the Pietist poet, Jan Luyken (see his emblem entitled ‘Tot Verdooving’ [Until Deafening] in Beschouwing der Wereld, 1708), suggested that his name was a play on the subject (‘Ruis-dael’ translates literally as ‘noisy-valley’). Beginning with Wilfred Wiegand (see Ruisdael-Studien: Ein Versuch zur Ikonologie der Landschaftsmalerei, unpublished dissertation, Hamburg, 1971, p. 255), several modern authors have suggested that Ruisdael's waterfalls have a symbolic dimension. Citing Luyken’s emblem as well as biblical passages, Wiegand stressed that the waterfalls were symbols of transience and vanitas. Although Slive argues that this interpretation would never have been intended by the painter (op. cit., p. 154).
This painting was in the collection of one of the most distinguished families in Denmark for nearly two hundred years. Count Adam Gottlob Moltke (1710-1792), the earliest recorded owner of this painting, was a Danish courtier, statesman and diplomat, and Favourite of Frederick V of Denmark; while his son, Joachim Godske Moltke, and his grandson, Adam Wilhelm Moltke, later served as Prime Ministers of Denmark. Adam Gottlob Moltke entered the service of the Royal household at a young age, serving as a page to the Crown Prince Frederick, future Frederick V of Denmark-Norway. Upon his ascension to the throne in 1730, Frederick appointed Moltke as Lord Chamberlain, and continued to lavish honours upon him: Moltke became a member of the Privy Council; was granted the estate of Bregentved in 1747; and was created a count in 1750. Frederick led a profligate lifestyle and relied heavily on the able ministers in his service. Alongside Count Johann Hartwig Ernst von Bernstorff, Moltke led the progress of Danish commerce and industry. The king’s ministers also pursued a careful policy of avoiding involving Denmark in any European wars, remaining neutral even during the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) despite the country’s proximity to Sweden and Russia. Following the death of Queen Louisa in 1751, Frederick was close to marrying one of Moltke’s daughters, but the count quickly declined this (somewhat dubious) honour and arranged for the marriage of the king to Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, sister-in-law of Frederick the Great of Prussia. After the death of Frederick V, Moltke’s influence at court declined. He was dismissed from his various positions in July 1766 and retired to his estates at Bregentved, where he had amassed a large collection of pictures, including a significant number of seventeenth century Dutch pictures, including four waterfall landscapes by Ruisdael, alongside works by Wouwermans, Hobbema, Metsu and Adriaen van Ostade. His collection was inherited by his son, Joachim Godske Moltke (1746-1818), who, like his father, played a prominent role in parliament, serving as a member of the Privy Council and as Prime Minister in 1814, the crucial year in which Denmark and Norway, which had been united under a single monarchy since the early-sixteenth century, split into two separate sovereign states. The Danish royal line remained in the Absolutist Oldenburg family, a situation which marked little change until the ascension of Frederick VII in 1848. Almost as soon as he succeeded to the throne, the Danish people petitioned for the institution of a Constitution. The new king accepted these requests, relinquishing his Absolute power and established a Danish parliament. The first Prime Minister under Denmark’s new constitutional monarchy was Joachim’s son, Adam Wilhelm Moltke (1785-1864). This painting by Ruisdael passed in the Moltke collection to Adam Wilhelm’s grandson, Count Frederik Christian Moltke (1854-1936), by whom it was sold in 1931.

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