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Oil painting - Moonlight and River Scene
  • Moonlight and River Scene
    Neer, Aert van der, born 1603 - died 1677
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Moonlight and River Scene

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Amsterdam (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1635-1677 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Neer, Aert van der, born 1603 - died 1677 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on oak panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 6, The Lisa and Bernard Selz Gallery, case WE

Aert van der Neer (1603/04-1677) spent his youth in Arkel near Gorinchem (Gorkum), a town on the river Waal, east of Dordrecht. He moved to Amsterdam in about 1632 and remained there for the rest of his life. He was best known for moonlight landscapes and winter scenes.

This painting is unlikely an authentic work by Aert van der Neer but a good example of his much copied oeuvre and the attribution to the artist is qualified in the catalogue raisonné (Schulz, 2002) as questionable. The demand for moonlit landscapes by Aert van der Neer was great during his lifetime but also in the 18th and the 19th centuries particularly in 1770-80 and again in the period between 1815 and 1840 in central Europe and England under the influence of Romanticism that led to a series of copies and forgeries often inscribed with fake monograms. The naturalistic elements such as the foliage and the vegetation at ground level look indeed less accurate than in an authentic work by the artist. The earthy palette and the play of reddish brown and dark greyish blue however reflect well the characteristic style of Aert van der Neer who was famous for his use of coloured light and his ability to depict atmospheric effects.

Physical description

Extensive river landscape under a moonlit sky with a boat at shore in the foreground and a sailing boat with a distant city in the background, a church at mid distance.

Place of Origin

Amsterdam (probably, painted)


ca. 1635-1677 (painted)


Neer, Aert van der, born 1603 - died 1677 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on oak panel

Marks and inscriptions

inscribed with monogram in foreground left of centre.


Height: 33.2 cm estimate, Width: 49.5 cm estimate, Height: 490 mm framed, Width: 650 mm framed

Object history note

Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce, 1869
South Kensington Museum Art Handbooks. The Dyce and Forster Collections. With Engravings and Facsimiles. Published for the Committee of Council on Education by Chapman and Hall, Limited, 193, Piccadilly, London. 1880. Chapter I. Biographical Sketch of Mr. Dyce. pp.1-12, including 'Portrait of Mr. Dyce' illustrated opposite p.1.

Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education, South Kensington Museum.A Catalogue of the Paintings, Miniatures, Drawings... Bequeathed by The Reverend Alexander Dyce. London, 1874. A 'Note' on page v comments, 'This catalogue refers to the Art portion of the Collection bequeathed to the South Kensington Museum by the Reverend Alexander Dyce, the well-known Shakespearian scholar, who died May 15, 1869'. The Catalogue. Paintings, Miniatures, &c. by Samuel Redgrave notes of the 'Oil Paintings', 'The strength of Mr. Dyce's valuable bequest to Department of Science and Art does not lie in [this] portion ... which is in its nature of a very miscellaneous character. The collection was made apparently as objects offered themselves, and without any special design.' Dyce's main interest was in literary subjects, and this is reflected in many of the paintings he bequeathed to the V&A.

Historical significance: This work is a typical example of Aert van der Neer's style albeit it does not reach his high quality. Although his paintings were most copied and imitated during his life, the demand for moonlit landscapes by van der Neer was so great particularly in 1770-80 and between 1815-40 that a series of copies and forgeries exist, often inscribed with monograms.

Historical context note

Aert van der Neer (1603/04-1677) spent his youth in Arkel, near Gorinchem (Gorkum), a town on the river Waal, east of Dordrecht. Around 1632 he moved to Amsterdam, where he remained for the rest of his life, and had a considerable output. He is best known for moonlight landscapes and winter scenes. The chronology of van der Neer's oeuvre is unclear; his earliest work seems to date from 1642, and the latest from 1665. During the first half of the 1640s, Aert van der Neer and colleagues in Amsterdam and Haarlem developed a new genre of nocturne landscapes. These impressed with their freshness and novelty, and many were produced. He used a restricted palette of earthy colours to represent isolated figures involved in daily activities in expansive landscapes in which a wide sky is generally the source of light. Coloured light is thus typically considered the essential characteristic of Aert van der Neer's style. His work was much imitated during his lifetime, but taste changed in the later 1660s, and he ended his days in poverty.

Nocturnal landscapes appear as an independent genre in Dutch art in the mid 17th century, although some examples existed earlier. At the beginning of the 17th century, the mastery of light and of its atmospheric effects attained by Caravaggio (1571-1610) and Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610) had a great influence on northern painters. Heindrick Goudt engraved night scenes, and such subjects became the speciality of the Dutch engravers such as Jan van de Velde (ca. 1593-1641). Painters including Jan Asselijn, Benjamin Gerritz. Cuyp and Rembrandt excelled in nocturnal subjects, and by the 1640s moonlit landscapes had become a separate genre. Aert van der Neer's moonlit landscapes were much copied and imitated during his life, and during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Descriptive line

Oil painting on oak panel, 'Moonlight And River Scene', Aert van der Neer, ca.1635-1677

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 202, cat. no. 248.
Hofstede de Groot, A catalogue raisonné of the works of most eminent Dutch painters of the 17th century, London, 1907-27, VII, no. 233.
Christopher Wright, Dutch painting in the seventeenth century: images of a golden age in British collections,London, 1989, p. 225.
Wolfgang Schulz, Aert van der Neer,Doornspijk, 2002, p. 234, cat. no. 415.


Oil paint; Oak


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Boats; Landscape; Moonlight; Trees; Church; River




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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