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Oil painting - Donkey and sheep
  • Donkey and sheep
    Verboeckhoven, Eugène, born 1798 - died 1881
  • Enlarge image

Donkey and sheep

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Brussels (painted)

  • Date:

    1849 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Verboeckhoven, Eugène, born 1798 - died 1881 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, 1868

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Eugène Joseph Verboeckhoven (1798-1881) was taught at first by his father, the sculptor Barthélemy Verboeckhoven, before attending the Ghent Academy where he was a pupil of the landscape painter Balthasar-Paul Ommeganck (1755-1826). He moved to Brussels in 1827, where he became director of the Musée de Bruxelles and later a teacher at the Académie Royale. He had many pupils among whom Louis-Pierre Verwée (1807-1877), the brothers Charles (1815-1894) and Edmond Tschaggeny (1818-1873). He also painted staffage for other painters' landscapes such as Jean-Baptiste De Jonghe (1785-1844), Henri van Assche (1774-1841), Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803-1862) and Louis-Pierre Verwée. He was also a prolific engraver.

This painting, showing two sheep and a donkey silhouetted against a clear blue sky, is a typical example of Verboeckhoven's depictions of animals in carefully arranged, flat landscapes. He also executed scenes of animals and farmers in the farmyard, of which the V&A's collection has an example (see 1528-1869). The artist was deeply influenced by the 17th-century imagery and the work of Paulus Potter, the great animal painter of the Golden Age.

Physical description

In a flat landscape, a donkey in profile with a seated sheep at its feet; another sheep seen from the back is at mid-distance.

Place of Origin

Brussels (painted)


1849 (painted)


Verboeckhoven, Eugène, born 1798 - died 1881 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

E. J. Verboeckhoven 1849
lower left


Height: 22 cm estimate, Width: 19.7 cm estimate, :

Object history note

Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncy Hare Townshend, 1868
Ref : Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860. Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990. p.xix.

'Chauncy Hare Townshend (1798-1868) was born into a wealthy family, only son of Henry Hare Townsend of Busbridge Hall, Godalming, Surrey. Educated at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA 1821). Succeeded to the family estates 1827, when he added 'h' to the Townsend name. He had taken holy orders, but while he always referred to himself as 'Rev.' on the title pages of his books, he never practised his vocation... . Very much a dilettante in the eighteenth-century sense, he moved in the highest social and literary circles; a great friend of Charles Dickens (he was the dedicatee of Great Expectations) with whom he shared a fascination of mesmerism... Bulwer Lytton described his life's 'Beau-deal of happiness' as 'elegant rest, travel, lots of money - and he is always ill and melancholy'. Of the many watercolours and British and continental oil paintings he bequeathed to the V&A, the majority are landscapes. He is the first identifiable British collector of early photographs apart from the Prince Consort, particularly landscape photography, and also collected gems and geological specimens.'

Historical significance: Verboeckhoven specialised in classical landscape painting under the influence of his master Balthasar-Paul Ommeganck and particularly favoured the 17th-century imagery. He discovered the work of the great animal painter Paulus Potter (1625-1654) in the early 30s and remained extremely impressed by him. The present painting showing a donkey and two sheep in a flat landscape is a typical example of Verboeckhoven’s borrowing from Paulus Potter’s famous animal studies.
The donkey’s silhouette enhanced on the clear blue sky repeats Potter’s compositional idea of standing bulls silhouetted against a wide blue sky. This type of images was popular during the 17th century as they presented animals, especially sheep, donkeys and cows, conceived as embodiments of the Dutch national pride.
Art from the Golden Age was extremely appealing to landscape painters of the 19th century also because it represented a national glory and showed motifs such as cattle, modest life in the countryside, great perspective plans that were part of the national pride renewed in those years of political changes: the kingdom of the Netherlands unifying the northern and the southern Netherlands was proclaimed in 1815, and even after the independence of modern Belgium, the links remained strong.
Many comparable works can be found in private and public collections such as the Royal Collection, London (see Landscape with animals, Inv. RCN407874) and other similar pictures are in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection (see 493-1870 and 1085-1886 in which the same donkey is represented in the same position).
After the 1830s, his work shows little evolution, but his paintings were very popular and rather expensive. He received several prestigious commissions and he obtained titles and decorations throughout Europe.

Historical context note

The artistic relationship between the Northern and the Southern Netherlands, that is modern-day Holland and Belgium, were very strong during the 19th century especially after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Netherlands in 1815. The Prix de Rome was awarded equally to Antwerp and Amsterdam artists, even after the independence of Belgium in 1830 and the great tradition of the Golden Age was still vivid in the first half of the century. The majority of Belgian art of the first half of the 19th century, including history painting, genre scenes, landscape and portrait paintings, articulated a new national pride which nevertheless drew upon French academic taste. Such artists as Jean-Bernard Duvivier (1762-1837), Henry Leys (1815-1869) and Karel Verlat (1824-1890) made extensive use of these renewed genres in their oeuvre. Focusing on the achievement of a greater realism, Belgian artists travelled a great deal, not only for training purposes in the tradition of their artistic predecessors but for the sake of discovering new surroundings and making new acquaintances: Paris was the favourite destination. While Italy also remained a popular destination, the majority of these artists tended to move on to other areas of interest, such as Morocco, less for their artistic traditions, and more for their exotic aspects.

Descriptive line

Oil on canvas, 'Donkey and Sheep', Eugène-Joseph Verboeckhoven, 1849

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

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 101-102, cat. no. 223.
Waagen, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain: Being an account of more than forty collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Mss, etc, London, 1857, p.176.


Oil; Canvas



Subjects depicted

Sheep; Landscape; Donkey




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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