By Contrarily Discussed Hand

Kolf Players of the Golden Age on the Ice

in Boydell’s Engraving partly known to Experts from Hearsay only

Aert van der Neer (Gorinchem 1604 – Amsterdam 1677) ?

(“ A Winter Landscape / Amusements on the Ice on a Frozen Branch of a River in the Suburbs of Amsterdam. Among the boats stuck fast on a broad frozen river some skaters are playing ‘Kolf.’: excellent and characteristic picture … the mass of water lost in the distance, the animation on both banks, the bright sky shedding its light … on the ice surface and illumining the darkest shadows … lightly and even sketchily treated, but with a master’s genius: belong(s) to his [van der Neer’s] earlier and best period … Signed with monogram” [Wilhelm von Bode in the catalog de Ridder, 1913, lot 62].)

Adrian van Drever (in reality? fictitious?,
active as the case may be Amsterdam about 1670/80) ?

Aert van der Neer, Winter Landscape with Kolf Players


Wide frozen river, in front parting to the left and right and lined on both sides by a row of houses including one windmill each tapering off in the distance, with kolf players and various boats, one of which with fish trap next to secured tree trunks. On the bank in front a man sitting in company of a standing girl. While far left one of the players strives homeward, on the right a bag-carrier just enters the scene in turn, accompanied by a leaping dog. Etching with engraving by and at John Boydell (Dorrington/Shrops. 1719 – London 1804). Inscribed: in the picture facsimiled in reverse lower right AV (ligated) D / 1675; below typographically Van Drever pinx.t / J. Boydell sculp.t / Winter / Engrav’d (in reverse) from an original Picture of Van Drever, in the Possession of Mr. (John) Poyner (apothecary) at Islington. – / Publish’d according to Act of Parliament; & Sold by J. Boydell Engraver at the Unicorn the Corner of Queen Street in Cheapside London 1753. – 11⅜ × 16¾ in (29 × 42.6 cm).

Splendid large sheet with adequate centered watermark

(6⅛ × 3 in [15.5 × 7.5 cm], not in Heawood) on heavy laid paper with margins laterally 6.2-7 & above/below 6 cm wide. These on three sides and above including the white platemark, too, faintly foxspotted/stained, on the far left a little more, just as then generally a little more perceptible on the back. Utterly untouched by this the picture itself and the general impression barely.

Closing plate of an informal set of seasons

after pictures of various masters of the Poyner Collection , Islington ,

The watermark
with two landscapes of Jan van Goyen (Leiden 1586 – The Hague 1656) serving as Spring and Summer (Beck 600 & 560). Etched by William Elliot (Hampton Court Palace, London, 1727 – London 1766), both are slightly wider laterally than the paintings as known today and therefore of more balanced composition, what might suggest both a later cutting of the paintings and an adjustment of image relations in the print by Elliot. An Autumn plate for now not traceable here and probably (due to Poyner’s demise?) not executed. A third Goyen of the Poyner Collection, representing a town fortification on a river, known only by François Vivarès’s (Lodève 1709 – London 1780) 1756 etching The Dutch Fishermen for Boydell as well as by several copies (Beck 790a). With a landscape after Nicolaes Berchem (Haarlem 1620 – Amsterdam 1683) and a moonlit landscape after Anthonie van Borssom (bapt. 1631 Amsterdam 1677), in the inscription wrongly attributing the pinxit to the later miniaturist (!) (Barend) Van Bosman (1742-1807, sic!), Boydell etched two further Poyner provenances himself (1752 and 1753 resp.). Poyner himself traceable here otherwise only as subscriber to John Oldmixon’s History of England (1730), as witness before the Old Bailey (1754) and by his will executed at Saint Mary, Islington October 22, 1761.

The absolute rarity of the sheet as resulting from the documentation below

supported not least by its missing in Weigel’s Art Stock Catalog, sections I-XXVIII (1838-1857) comprising far above 20,000 plates still closer to the time.

And shrouded in mystery in regard of the source painting as follows:

pro van der Neer

British Museum 1861,1109.82: … with facsimile signature (in reverse): “AVDN / 1675” (the signature here distinctly without N)

“ After a painting by Aert van der Neer, but wrongly attributed on the plate to (the elusive, if not fictitious artist) Adriaen van Drever. ”

Thieme-Becker IX (1913), 558 (Karl Lilienfeld):

“ Adrian van Drever, according to Nagler and others a Dutch painter who … is said to have painted winterscapes and other landscapes. Most likely, however, a fictitious artist who was claimed for the works and (not quite true, see below) the monogram of A. v. d. Neer … At any rate, the only picture of the alleged D. … the winterscape of the Belvedere gallery in Vienna is a work of A. v. d. Neer (not in Schulz, 2002) … The monogram of this picture lacks the N of van der Neer just as the monogram Nagler (Monogrammisten [II] No. 1414) reproduces from J. Boydell’s (present) engraving ”

Aert van der Neer, Winterscape with Houses (Mauritshuis)
Aert van der Neer, Winter Landscape with Houses (courtesy Mauritshuis, The Hague)

Hofstede de Groot (1918) 494 (authentic, not dated) and further experts of the Dutch 17th cent. like Willem Martin and Wilhelm Bode up to the acquisition from the profound August de Ridder collection at Kronberg/Taunus 1924 by the legendary Mauritshuis at The Hague with the help of the Vereniging Rembrandt and further donors (catalog 1977, no. 787 with illustration).

Bibliothèque Nationale Paris 1930, 148 in regard of Le Bas’ comparable winter view of Zandvliet near Antwerp and a Scheveningen fish market resp. engraved about 1748 “(after Aert van der Neer [?]) – Hollstein 6 & 7, (after Neer) – and

“ (… although the compositions are inscribed as after Adriaen van Drever, they could be after Aert van der Neer, too). ”

Bachmann, Aert van der Neer, 1982, p. 115 & illustration 85, unaware of the 1675 date in present engraving from 1753:

“ This small plate with the wide high clouded sky, with cloud shadows over the sheet of ice, expecting the early dusk, presents the illusion of a quiet dull day in February. It has the composition with the river parting in front; the third bank lies athwart to the direction of the river and impairs the natural course of the terrain … the truth of the light is convincing.

“ On this picture was found below the monogram a rare designation of the date down to the day: 7 fe. 16.5 in different color, thus inscribed afterwards. Of the important figure at the ten position only the upper half is preserved, it could have been a 3 or a 7. As date of creation none of the two figures is possible. 1655 would be a fitting date, but the remains of the figure have not belonged to a 5.

Aert van der Neer, Monogram (Mauritshuis)
Aert van der Neer’s monogram in the painting (Mauritshuis, The Hague)

“ There are several winterscapes with the similar composition and size (9⅞ × 14⅜ in [25 × 36.5 cm]), they were created about the same time. – As regards the date one might consider it the date of a reunion after 20 years … ”

In the awareness here of the 1675 date in the picture of the engraving the ten position of the painting appears quite legible as the upper part of a 7, too. Regarding Neer’s full monogram for the clarification of why at least in present – see below – copy of the engraving its N is missing attention shall be called to the lesser legible and therefore missable N in the painting as far as the photo goes.

Aert van der Neer’s compositional model

Of greatest weight, however, that still the etching

manifests van der Neer’s proverbial geometric compositional model

in that the diagram here corresponds with those called in from Bachmann, 1982, p. 81, interpreted by example

“ Certainly van der Neer had a profound relation with geometry. That is not exceptional, the Dutch landscape usually are strictly composed, that is their structure was carefully planned in deference of an architectural order. Already as an extremely central perspective the semantics of the van-der-Neer-composition of the 40s a matter of geometry. ”

And on occasion of the authentic blaze at Schwerin originating from the late 60s Schulz 1376, ill. 234

“ Still van der Neer proves to be a master of composition … two horizontal lines determine the orderly image space … they are the two riversides ” (ibid. pp. 79 & 142).

Not to be passed over finally Boydell’s nonchalance towards signatures as reprimanded already afore with respect to the equal-sized companion piece Moon Light from likewise 1753 after Anthonie van Borssom’s moonlit landscape in the Poyner Collection, wrongly attributed to the later miniaturist Van Bosman (1742-1807, sic!)! Cf. British Museum 1861,1109.26.

Picked out finally figurative comparisons with Schulz:

For modeling of the legs and the trousers of the one going home in the print far left see Schulz 225, color plate 3, far left (authentic and important, early/mid-1650s). For the generally ascertained latter also Schulz 35 (authentic) & 212 (authentic, 2nd h. of the 1650s), color illustrations 4 f.

For the boat with the fish trap in the print center right Schulz 215, color plate 7, right part of the picture (authentic, c. 1660).

For the sitting/standing couple on the riverside front right Schulz’s 229 called in before already, color plate 8, ibid. front left & 209, color plate 14, ibid. front center (authentic and important, certificate Bernt [1978], for Bachmann supposed late work.

For the middle one of the three kolf players in the print center left Schulz 240, color plate 9, the sole kolf player standing center right in brown (authentic, 2nd h. of the 1650s, for Bachmann by means of dress about 1660) & 227, color plate 10, the far left one of the group of three center left (authentic).

The partly somewhat stiff figures of the etching as against the painting and Neer at his best in general due to Boydell’s subordination as engraver.

pro Drever

Boydell, Catalogue raisonné d’un recueil d’estampes d’apres les plus beaux tableaux qui soient en Angleterre [1779], p. 47.

Nagler, Künstler-Lexicon, III (1836), 474 f. & Monogrammisten I, 1438 and II (1860), 942 & 1414:

“ … landscape and marine painter who flourished in Holland already about 1675. This year stands beside the artist’s mark on a sheet engraved after him and therefore this Drever cannot have been born well about 1660 as Winckelmann and Füssly state. The mentioned engraving (a winterscape) is done by J. Boydell after the painting from the collection of M. Poyner at Islington … At the Imperial & Royal Gallery at Vienna there are winterscapes painted by his hand (supposedly meant the, so Wurzbach, see below, “so-called ‘snow Brueghels’, winterscapes in the character of the Brueghel … Royal Mus. [1896, N. 722] winterscape with skaters. Inscribed Brveghl 16.. and … A. v. D. Similar pictures with count Harrach in Vienna, Prague [Rudolfinum. N. 119] … and other places) …

“ It is also believed that he must have been in England. For J. Boydell engraved … the painting engraved by Boydell bears the monogram, too, with the year 1675. The mark appears in the engraving inverted, so that we have to put it under D A V.(, too). ”

Immerzeel Jr., De Levens en werken der Hollandsche en Vlaamsche kunstschilders, beeldhouwers, graveurs en bouwmeesters van het begin der 15de tot op de helft der 19de eeuw. Amsterdam 1842-43.

“ (A Dutch landscape and sea painter who flourished about 1673 and must have stayed in England. Other peculiarities about this artist are not known with certainty.) ”

Allgemeines Künstler Lexikon XXIX (2001), 406 (Ulrike Middendorf):

“ Except for two currently documented paintings with the signature recorded by Nagler and Wurzbach, hitherto nothing certain is known about this painter. One of the works, a winterscape with gaily colored figures, is in the tradition of similar pictures from the 1630s (formerly Gal. Müllenmeister, Solingen 1988 [and therefore not the present engraved one]). The second work is an Italianate mountainscape with a watermill and two laundry women (sale Christie’s, Am. Oct. 29, 1993, lot 38). Both pictures are of somewhat naïve charm and probably suggest an autodidact. Notwithstanding the similarity of the monograms, at no rate he can be mistaken for Aert van der Neer. Allegedly the English engraver John Boydell has engraved a winterscape from D’s design with his monogram and the year 1675 (inverted, ill. in Wurzbach). Two further engravings after D. by J. P. le Bas allegedly show the village Santvliet in winter and a fish market at Scheveningen. ”

The designs of Boydell and Le Bas thus known to Middendorf just from hearsay/by literature as their correspondingly rare prints themselves.

doubtful and as anonymous

Wurzbach, Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon I (1906), 425 f. with present inverted monogram & true to side AV (ligated) D: “… probably just an invented artist name …” and furthermore as already above. Besides presenting Neer’s monogram in two versions in vol. II, p. 223.

Schulz, Aert van der Neer, 2002, no. 21 with illustration 321: Copy or imitation.

Without reference to van Drever and therefore also unaware of the Boydell print here and therefore of the Poyner provenance, too. Which latter gives rise to the question if the name might not have mutated to Poynder in the course of time. For with Neer’s monogrammed winterscape Schulz 229 traded at $ 277500 in New York in 2000 and distinguished per additional color plate 8, the provenance chain starts with Thomas Henry Allen Poynder of Hartham Park/Wiltshire, which seat he had acquired in the 1850s and which passed via brother William Henry to the latter’s nephew John Dickson Poynder (1866-1936), later Sir, Baronet and Lord Islington. And at least Joan Alice Katherine Dickson Poynder (1923-1987) still owned aforesaid van der Neer. Could not this, too, have belonged to the collecting apothecary Poyner at Islington here, who in thusly would have established a pedigree of ultimately 200 years? And whose eye, adding above ascertained paintings of van Borssom, Berchem, and van Goyen, apparently knew to distinguish.

Interestingly enough, both Kleinberger as the organizer of the 1923 de Ridder sale and the great Wilhelm von Bode curating the catalog mention for this picture indeed the Paris provenances Theodor Lang and Jules Porgès, yet not that of Poyner. That even in Paris Boydell’s present engraving hereof should have remained unknown, appears the more unlikely as there at the very same time Jacques Philippe Lebas (1707 Paris 1783) worked two other prints as the only further ones after “Drever” (the Dutch Santvliet in Winter & a Fish Market at Scheveningen). And, mixing the designation of the former with present sujet, likewise in Paris Basset (2nd h. 18th cent.) published a rather naïve peep box image, now again in the direction of the painting, as Hyver / Vue de Santuliet Village de Hollande, otherwise with neither monogram nor any artist reference.

Could the Poyner provenance have been bothering in the Paris of Kleinberger as the vendor of the Winterscape Boydell had etched as “Drever” due to the monogram wanting – at least in the regular copies of the print, cf. above and below – the “N”??


This then the facts. So favoring van der Neer, the elusive “Drever” might indeed come out a fiction, based probably in an incorrect anagram. To which, neglected by public taste, the impoverished grandmaster of the moon and winterscapes had recourse to escape his creditors. What also would explain the number of paintings rated by literature as suspiciously low. And in such a way Mr. Poyner would have acquired the picture “in the manner of” van der Neer – Schulz: copy or imitation – appealing to him as a van Drever. What then was given the blessing by Boydell’s inscription. To be ultimately discovered as a genuine van der Neer.

So, as in Vienna, quoted in regard of Drever from Thieme-Becker IX (1913), 558:

Monogram AV D 1675 (inverted)
Inverted monogram AV D / 1675
“ At any rate the only picture of the alleged D. of which Nagler states its whereabouts per (Monogrammisten II) No. 1438, the Winterscape of the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna, is a work of A. van der Neer – 2002 not with Schulz – which now hangs in the Court Museum there. The monogram of this picture wants the N of van der Neer exactly as the monogram Nagler (Monogrammisten No. 1414) reproduces from an (that is present one) engraving by J. Boydell. ”

With regard to the latter, it shall be repeated, for two of their three copies of Boydell’s print the British Museum states to have read – correctly? – in the monogram the N in question. Therefore two states of the etching should exist, curing the N probably missed in the painting for delicacy as perceived here, suggesting a later addition. With nevertheless explicit retention of Drever’s pinxit! In whose monogram an N would have absolutely no place in!

Beyond doubt solely the fact that the painting acquired in 1924 by Mauritshuis in accord with the experts as a van der Neer of the de Ridder collection, purchased from Kleinberger in Paris as chief purveyor, is the one of the Poyner collection which served as model for present 1753 Boydell etching. Just as proved by the date (1675) added below the monogram later by third hand. For just this date in present sheet. So that it is one and the same picture!

The mystery of which likely will continue to be

as not the worst accompaniment to a fine picture .

Offer no. 16,241 | EUR 2300. | export price EUR 2185. (c. US$ 2641.) + shipping

We are obliged to the Mauritshuis, The Hague, for the generous permission to reproduce the comparative illustrations of van der Neer’s painting.

  1. For Nagler 1860 by no means Neer, rather concerning Drever. However, according to Bachmann, see below, p. 25, indeed the D falls victim to a rare corresponding contraction of the monogram with Neer and not the more essential N.

„ (D)ie Sendung (Hogarth / Marriage à-la-Mode) ist gestern wohlbehalten hier eingetroffen. Ist alles bestens, und ich danke Ihnen nochmals herzlich für die Beantwortung meiner Fragen und prompte Lieferung … Viele Grüße … “

(Herr C. K., 3. November 2013)