This picture is a beautifully controlled example of the style of landscape painting that was prevalent in the Netherlands in the mid-seventeenth century, propagated by the ‘Dutch Italianates’. The first generation of Dutch artists that travelled to Italy in the early seventeenth century, including Cornelis van Poelenburgh and Bartholomeus Breenbergh, depicted mainly mythological Arcadian landscapes, often with imaginary ruins, bathed in Mediterranean light and set in the Italian, specifically Roman, countryside. Though they retained the warm atmospheric effects developed by these artists, the Netherlandish painters working in Italy towards the middle of the seventeenth century, such as Jan Asselijn and Jan Both, replaced the ancient architectural and mythological elements with contemporary buildings and pastoral, everyday scenes.
Little is known of Daniël Schellink’s life and work, which is perhaps why this painting has been attributed in the past to both Fredrick de Moucheron, a pupil of Both, and Jacob van Ruisdael, whose popularity as a precursor of plein air Impressionism was at its height when it was sold in these Rooms, 31 January 1947. It is uncertain whether Daniël ever visited Italy, although his elder brother, Willem, certainly did and was admitted to the Schildersbent in Rome - a confraternity for Northern artists in the city, which had been established by Poelenburgh and Breenbergh shortly after 1620. It is clear that Daniël took much inspiration from Willem’s choice of subject-matter and, like many other artists who never actually left the Netherlands, he may have based the Italianate style of his painting on that of his contemporaries who had worked abroad.
Daniël appears to have particularly favoured the motif of cattle and figures crossing streams in ferry boats. The clear reflection of the ferry and its passengers in the water and the emphatic lines of the trunks and branches of the trees are also striking characteristics of his work. The evening sunlight filtering gently through the leaves and reflecting from the water unifies this tranquil composition and demonstrates the parity of Daniël’s work with that of his brother.
Sir Lawrence Dundas, ‘the Nabob of the North’, was the remarkable merchant-venturer of the 18th century who experienced a meteoric rise to power through financial success and political ambition. Sir Lawrence’s patronage was wide-ranging and of the highest calibre; he employed virtually all the leading cabinet-makers of his day, and numbered Sir William Chambers, Capability Brown and Robert Adam among those architects who made modifications to his large property portfolio. Sir Lawrence and his ‘dear life’ [sic] Margaret Bruce of Kennet lavished their attention on the interiors of these buildings, and it is for this that they are rightfully recognised as among the greatest connoisseurs of their day.
Sir Lawrence’s broad and discerning taste resulted in one of the finest picture collections of that generation (along with those of Sir Robert Walpole, the Duke of Marlborough and Sir Paul Methuen), which included an outstanding group of Dutch pictures, among them fourteen pictures by Teniers, eight by Cuyp, as well as works by Van de Capelle, Van de Velde and de Hooch, which Sir Lawrence acquired largely through his agent John Greenwood (see D. Sutton, ‘Nabob of the North’, Apollo, LXXXVI, September 1967). As well as an imposing Crucifixion by Poussin, Murillo’s Self-Portrait and a number of Italian pictures, Sir Lawrence commissioned several living artists, such as Richard Wilson and Johann Zoffany, who was paid £105 on 26 June 1770 for his striking portrait of Sir Lawrence and his Grandson in the Pillar Room at Arlington Street, in which Sir Lawrence is surrounded by several of his Dutch masterpieces.