Boats at a jetty, c. 1640
The liberality in the Netherlands has a great impact on the subjects depicted in the visual arts. In the rest of Europe, there is a stricter canon of images, i.e. an idea of what is considered worthy of depiction. In Holland, however, people freed themselves from these guidelines early on, and so sometimes vulgar pictorial themes such as drunkenness and prostitution were put on canvas. The rendering of these subjects can also be subtle, as in this painting: the contemplative-looking river scene is flanked on the left by two men who are outside a tavern. One of them is taking a large sip of beer. He stands in stark contrast to the noble patrons who are heading for the shore. Landscape paintings like this are popular in the 17th century because they are infused with a sense of humour and appeal to those prospective buyers who may not have experienced a high level of education, but are still able to decode the narrative.
The attribution of this painting to the painter and art dealer Wouter Knijff is based on stylistic similari- ties. Only close observation reveals the signature „VG“, which refers to the famous landscape painter Jan van Goyen (1596-1656). However, since the latter painted more tonally, with distinctly reduced colour accents, and the architecture in less detail, it can be ruled out that it comes from the hand of the great master. Already dur- ing Van Goyen‘s lifetime, imitations appeared, as they fetched high prices on the market. There is a second version, similar except for a few differences, which is attributed to Gillis Peeters the Elder (1612-1653). That painting bears the false signature „VGoyen 1644“.