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The tower of Kostverloren on the river Amstel

The tower of Kostverloren on the river Amstel
signed with monogram 'JVR' (lower right)
oil on canvas
19 3/8 x 23 1/8 in. (46.7 x 58.5 cm.)
(Probably) with Alexandre Joseph Paillet (1743-1814), Paris; his sale, Hôtel d'Aligre, Paris, 15 December 1777, lot 337, where described as amongst the 'meilleurs ouvrage de ce Maître' (350 livres to de Roy, Brussels).
Charles-Ferdinand de Bourbon, duc de Berry (1778-1820), Elysée Palace, Paris, and by inheritance to his wife,
Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Sicile, duchesse de Berry (1798-1870); their private selling exhibition, under the direction of the Louis Charles Bonaventure Pierre, comte de Mesnard (1769-1842); Christie's, London, April-June 1834, lot 67 (120 gns. to George Stone).
(Probably) with William Buchanan (1777-1864); Christie's, London, 24 May 1845, lot 59a (120 gns. to the following),
with Christian Johannes Nieuwenhuys (1799-1883), London.
Eva Sardinia Borthwick-Norton (1891-1988), Purbrook; Christie's, London, 15 May 1953, lot 84 (3,045 gns. to the following),
with Edward Speelman, London, from whom acquired by the following,
Harold Samuel, Baron Samuel of Wych Cross (1912-1987); Christie's, London, 1 April 1960, lot 73 (80 gns.), where acquired, and by descent to the present owners.
J. Smith, A catalogue raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French painters, London, 1835, VI, pp. 80-81, no. 256.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A catalogue raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch painters of the seventeenth century, London, 1912, p. 38, no. 101.
C. van Hasselt, Dessins de paysagistes hollandais du XVIIe siècle de la collection particulière conservée à l'Institut néerlandais de Paris, exhibition catalogue, Brussel, Biblioteque Albert, 1968, p. 129, under no. 126, note 11.
I.Q. van Regteren Altena and P.W. Ward-Jackson, Drawings from the Teyler Museum, Haarlem, exhibition catalogue, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1970, p. 34, under no. 42.
C. van Hasselt, Rembrandt and his Century: Dutch Drawings from the Seventeenth Century from the Collection of Frits Lugt, exhibition catalogue, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1977, p. 143, under no. 97, note 18.
B. Haak, 'Het Huis Kostverloren aan de Amstel, Jacob van Ruisdael 1628/29-1682', Vereniging Rembrandt Nationaal Fonds Kunstbehoud, The Hague, 1981, p. 93, note 4.
S. Slive, 'The Manor Kostverloren: Vicissitudes of a Seventeenth Century Dutch Landscape Motif', Papers in Art History from the Pennsylvania State University, III, 1988, pp. 137-138, illustrated.
E.J. Walford, Jacob van Ruisdael and the Perception of Landscape, New Haven and London, 1991, p. 122.
A.I. Davis, Jan van Kessel (1641-1680), Doornspijk, 1992, p. 145, under no. 40.
S. Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, Drawings, and Etchings, New Haven and London, 2001, pp. 100-101 and 538, no. 74, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

Described by John Smith as ‘an excellent work by the master,’ this unprepossessing masterpiece by the greatest of all Dutch landscape painters is appearing on the market for the first time in more than half a century. Its subject, the manor Kostverloren, was built around 1500 along the Amstel River, roughly five kilometres south of Amsterdam. Though known variously as Amstelhof, Brillenburg and, later, Ruijsschenstein, by 1525 it increasingly came to be described simply as Kostverloren (‘lost expenses’ or ‘money pit’) on account of the costs associated with maintaining its foundations on marshy land. Around 1650 the original structure fell victim to a fire, which gutted the house, sparing only its stepped gable tower. In 1658, the executors of the estate of Simon de Rijck, who had recently purchased the ruins, petitioned the trustees to have the ruined house demolished, its tower restored and a new house rebuilt on a lower foundation so that it could be leased and therefore generate revenue for the estate. According to a surviving bill, this work was swiftly undertaken between 10 May and 30 November of that year. The house was abandoned, its tower demolished by 1730, and finally bought for scrap in 1822 (for a full discussion of the manor’s history, see I.H. van Eeghen, ‘Rembrandt aan de Amstel’, in Rembrandt aan de Amstel, Amsterdam, 1969). Though virtually nothing of its structure remains today, at the end of the twentieth century plans were drawn up to reconstruct the house, but these ultimately never came to fruition (see M. van Meite, ‘Huis Kostverloren herrijst’, Ons Amsterdam, XLVII, 1995, pp. 108-111).

The site proved to be a magnetic one for a number of artists – Ruisdael, Hobbema, Jan van Kessel and Rembrandt, among others, all captured its picturesque ruins in drawing or paint in the years after 1650, while in the early decades of the seventeenth century its structure featured prominently in print series by Claes Jansz. Visscher and Simon Frisius dedicated to famous sites in and around Amsterdam. The manor’s popularity was no doubt due in part to its being a notable landmark for travellers, whether journeying by boat or along the road that tracked the bank of the Amstel. No neighbouring structure so prominently stood out against the flat Dutch landscape until the end of the seventeenth century. It similarly took on an almost heroic aura in arcadian poems like Hendrick Laurensz. Spiegel’s Hart-spieghel (1614), which accorded it the same vaunted status as sites from classical antiquity.

The present painting is based on a drawing, now in the Teylers Museum and one of the artist’s few surviving fully realized studies for a painting (fig. 1), which Ruisdael must have made in the late spring or early summer of 1658, shortly after the old structure was demolished and before its reconstruction. According to Seymour Slive, the painting is datable to the same year or shortly thereafter (Slive, op. cit., 2001). The site evidently held particular appeal for Ruisdael, who subsequently returned to it in at least two further paintings: one showing the early stages of the rebuilding process (Amsterdam Historical Museum); and another the premises shortly after reconstruction (present location unknown). A further drawing, presumably depicting the house shortly after reconstruction, is today in the Fondation Custodia, Paris. The ruin’s continued popularity as a subject for artists – tellingly, one of van Kessel’s paintings is dated 1664, some fifteen years after it burned – suggests that, much like depictions of the Oude Stadhuis in Amsterdam (burned 1652), the Mariakerk in Utrecht (partially destroyed in 1576) and the Huis ter Kleef in Haarlem (destroyed 1573), its dignified dishabille enjoyed a mythic status in the contemporary Dutch imagination.

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