This remarkable beach scene counts among Simon de Vlieger’s largest and most compositionally complex treatments of this theme. De Vlieger appears to have first treated the subject around 1633 in paintings such as one that is today in the National Maritime Museum, London, but the majority of his beach scenes date to the 1640s. As here, de Vlieger’s beach scenes tend to be composed with a watch tower above dunes, figures selling fish at the high tide mark and various small watercraft beached on the undulating shore.
The beach at Scheveningen, in particular, proved a popular site for de Vlieger as well as his contemporaries Jan van Goyen and Salomon van Ruysdael, the latter of whom only began to depict such subjects late in life. In addition to the present painting, the small beachside village features in the afore-mentioned painting of 1633 as well as one dating to circa 1645 in the Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum, Amsterdam. As with the example in Amsterdam, the site here is readily identifiable by the tower of the town’s Oude Kerk, which rises above the dunes in the distance.
This painting is first documented in the collection of the connoisseur Baron (and later Count) Friedrich Moritz von Brabeck, who initially pursued a career in the Church but, following his marriage in 1788, devoted himself almost exclusively to his artistic interests, putting together a large picture gallery. He transformed the inherited Söder Castle (fig. 1), located between Hildesheim and the Harz mountains, into a prestigious palace complex with the intention of exhibiting his collection and opening it for study purposes. The collection was comprised of circa 400 pictures, and an inventory upon his death in 1814 lists works by some of the most prestigious artists in the collection – Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Rubens, Canaletto and Dürer. During the count’s life, the castle became a gathering point for famous and distinguished people and an artistic and intellectual center in the region around Hildesheim. After he passed away, his daughter inherited her father’s possessions in Hildesheim. With the death of her son, the only heir, Count Andreas zu Stolberg sold Söder Castle as well as von Brabeck’s collection of paintings in 1859.
The present view is almost assuredly the work listed under no. 2 as ‘Die Ansicht von Scheveningen in Holland by David Teniers’ in the catalogue of 1814. The attribution to Teniers remained unchanged when the catalogue was reprinted by Count Stolberg in 1859, when the former Brabeck collection was on view in the museum in Hannover days before the auction (loc. cit.). This early attribution is an indication of the esteem in which the painting was held by its owner, for Teniers would have been among the most desirable Dutch and Flemish painters for German collectors in the period.
A number of Dutch and Flemish paintings from the Brabeck collection are today in the world's leading public collections. Among the highlights are Jacob van Ruisdael’s Waterfall in a rocky landscape with a bridge and a half-timbered house of the late 1660s (National Gallery, London) and Aert de Gelder’s acclaimed Self-portrait with model (The artist as Zeuxis) (Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main).
The attribution of this painting was endorsed by Dr. Jan Kelch, former director of the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, at the time of the 2009 sale.