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Le Bac

© 2009 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Dutch painting

Collange Adeline

This is a view of the fortifications of the castle at Gennep (Limburg), which were damaged during a siege in 1641.

A calm seascape

A ferryboat full of cavaliers leaves a river bank, which is plunged in shadow, pushed by the ferryman's pole. Other small craft make their way along the river, and sailing ships glide past silently in the distance. In the background, some picturesque ruins stand out; these are the fortifications of the castle at Gennep in Limburg, which were damaged during a siege in 1641. An outpost of soldiers defends the fortress with a cannon pointed toward the river. As was usual for the artist, Salomon van Ruysdael chose to paint a picture in a format that is wider than it is high, allowing him to open up the landscape to a peaceful sky. The tranquility of this work is accentuated by the pronounced horizontality of the river, a great silver mirror whose waters do not seem to be disturbed by the river traffic. However, the picture is structured by a gentle diagonal that guides the eye from the busy side of the picture (the river and the buildings, painted in darker tones) toward the open spaces of the sky and the water.

Subtle monochrome painting

This seascape is painted with great subtlety, with monochrome areas in a pinkish ochre enlivened with touches of green; these harmonize with the overall blue-gray palette. Salomon von Ruysdael used very little paint, and his lightness of touch allowed him to create a translucent atmosphere that permeates the whole composition. This very fine work with color tone almost like monochrome painting is reminiscent of the delicate art of Jan van Goyen. The two painters were in fact probably both trained in Haarlem by Esaias van de Velde, whose approach to landscape they would develop.

The birth of Dutch landscape painting

The opening up of the composition to the sky, the play of light in the monochrome areas, and above all the composition's apparent simplicity (deriving from an absence of an overt subject-this is neither a Biblical episode nor a historical or mythological scene) are indicative of the birth of a new genre of landscape painting that is distinctly Dutch and far removed from symbolic landscapes of the Mannerists. From this point on, the real subject of painting, as much in the work of Jan van Goyen as in that of Salomon van Ruysdael, is the poetry emanating from the luminous atmosphere, which gently mingles water and sky. This new conception of landscape would profoundly influence the work of Ruysdael's nephew, Jacob van Ruisdael, even though Jacob's compositions are conceived on a grander scale and tinged with Romanticism.


Stechow W., Salomon Van Ruysdael : eine einführung in seine Kunst..., - Zweite revidierte und vermehrte Auflage. - Berlin : Gebr. Mann, 1975.

Technical description

  • Salomon van RUYSDAEL (Naarden, 1600 / 1603 - Haarlem, 1670)

    Le Bac


  • H. : 0,40 m. ; L. : 0,60 m.

  • Acquis sur le marché d'art (François Kleinberger), Paris, 1899 , 1899

    R.F. 1162

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    Holland, first half of the 17th century
    Room 846

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Additional information about the work

dated and signed: S.V. RUYSDAEL 1643