ProvenanceSale: Monsieur J.B., Paris, Drouot, 23 March 1931, No. 13, repr.
Munich, Collecting Point, Recuperation, 1947, No. 5609
Wildenstein & Co., Buenos Aires
Collection Raul Lamuraglia, Buenos Aires
Sale: Christie's New York, 31 May 1991, Important Old Master Paintings, No. 30A, repr. in colour
Private Collection, New York
Private Collection, California, by descent
ExhibitionExh. De El Greco a Tiepolo, Museo Nacionales de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, 1964, No. 110, repr.
LiteratureW. Stechow, Salomon van Ruysdael, 1975, p. 107, no. 2...More...58
Born in Naarden where his father, Jacob Jansz de Goyer was a moderately wealthy cabinetmaker, Salomon van Ruysdael initially used the name ‘de Goyer’ but soon followed the example of his eldest brother and adopted ‘Ruysdael’ from the castle of Ruijschdaal in Gooiland, which may once have been a family possession. Shortly after his father’s death, Salomon and his brother, Isaack van Ruysdael (1599-1677), a painter, frame maker, and dealer, moved to Haarlem, where Salomon entered the Guild of St Luke in 1623 and largely painted scenes of the surrounding countryside.
By 1640, Salomon distanced himself from the tonal aesthetic that had largely dominated landscape pictures of the previous decade. Instead, he adopted a more varied and brighter palette that can be seen as part of a wider movement in landscape painting whereupon the impulse to paint the more mundane features of the Dutch environment in a relatively uncomplicated manner was supplanted by a desire to imbue the landscape with a new sense of grandeur and refinement. Salomon did not, for example, intend cloud structures to be simply beautiful features or atmospheric elements that augment the ‘feeling’ of the picture. Instead, he looked to the energy and drama of the sky to suggest familiar poetic or scriptural metaphors vis a vis any number of weather anomalies — natural world reminders of God’s creative power, his benevolence, and his goodness visible from the top of the dunes, from the lands reclaimed from the sea, and from the sea conquered with their mighty ships.
“A Dune with Figures Resting” is a beautifully orchestrated demonstration of that principle carried on the strength of its brilliant staging of light and shadow in creating drama and energy. It is the beau idéal that collectors of seventeenth-century Dutch landscapes value most, illustrated in this case by a dramatic cloud-driven sky that conveys the essential nature of a blustery day, a rising sandy wedge of land that provides a gently sloping diagonal to a lowered horizon on the left gloriously capped by a silvery band of distanced water, and a landscape populated by figures that have come for the bracing air and together, create a kind of euphoric spectacle of life and living; people admiring the scene just as Salomon van Ruysdael wanted us to admire the picture. It is all pitched and brought to dynamic balance by those wind-driven darkened cumulus clouds that echo and drive the clustered shape of the trees skyward; an effect counter-balanced by patches of white clouds that sort of speak to the strongly lit area that irradiates and transfigures the landscape at mid-ground. The overall effect is a radiant one, and it is clear, Salomon took the advice given by Karel van Mander to painters in 1604 that, “above all do not forget to put small figures under tall trees. . . Make the countryside, the town, and the water full of activity, the houses inhabited, and the roads traveled.” “A Dune with Figures Resting” is a picture full of positivism, an embodiment of a benevolent equilibrium of sea and land and air and water – all experienced by people, whether peasant or of a more leisurely class — a show of prosperity and harmony.
Salomon van Ruysdael, “Landscape with Wagons on a Sandy Road with Other Travelers and Cows, a Church Beyond,” 1647, Oil on Oak Panel
Salomon van Ruysdael, “River View of Nijmegen with the Vakhof,” 1648, Oil on Panel, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Salomon van Ruysdael, “View of the Dunes near Zandvoort,” Oil on Canvas
Salomon van Ruysdael, “Landscape with Two Figures Conversing,” Graphite on Paper, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York