76. Jan van der Meer the Elder

Haarlem 1628 – 1691 Haarlem

Landscape with an Inn, along a Wooded Road

The present drawing played a crucial role in the identification of a group of anonymous landscape drawings, described by Jeroen Giltaij as “Problem Group 1” in his article on the drawings of Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29-1682) in 1980.1 Recently, the sheet was connected to a signed painting of the same inn with a semi-thatched roof along a wooden road by the Dutch landscape artist Jan van der Meer the Elder, also known as Jan Vermeer van Haarlem.2 This relatively unknown artist studied with the landscape artist Jacob de Wet the Elder (c. 1610-1677/91) in Haarlem, where he became a member of the painters’ guild in 1654. He probably knew Ruisdael, who was about the same age and active in Haarlem between the late 1640s and mid-1650s. There is a close resemblance between the drawings in the problem group and Ruisdael’s drawings in black chalk and grey wash, which he made during his years in Haarlem.3 In particular, the handling of the black chalk, e.g. the stretched out zigzag lines to render foliage and the swiftly drawn horizontal lines to suggest clouds, is similar in drawings by Ruisdael from this period.

Although the differences are minimal, Giltaij was right to distinguish two different hands. Compared to Ruisdael’s fluently drawn sheets, Landscape with an Inn, along a Wooded Road and the other drawings in the problem group are more schematically drawn. This does not make the drawings less interesting. On the contrary, the present sheet is a wonderfully atmospheric landscape, achieved by the sublime rendering of light and shadow with grey wash. It depicts a wooded road with an inn, recognisable by the sign hanging over the door. On the right side there is a gate leading to an open field with houses and dunes in the distance. Like Ruisdael, the artist was probably inspired by the landscape in and around the city of Haarlem. At least one other drawing from the problem group represents a view of Haarlem.4 The inn could very well represent “De Stinkende Emmer”, a famous inn along the road between Zandvoort and Haarlem which still exists today.5 Here, after an exhausting day, carrying buckets full of freshly caught fish through the dunes to the fish market in Haarlem, the fishermen’s wives took a rest. Probably for sanitary reasons they left their empty buckets outside, hence the name of the inn, which translates from the Dutch as “The Stinking Bucket”.

Rather than a preparatory study for the painting as suggested by Giltaij, the present drawing could also be intended as an autonomous work of art. The composition was not exactly copied in the painting and several elements do not appear in the drawing, such as the stepped chimney, the wooden fencing and the gate next to the inn. Nevertheless, the recent discovery proves the connection between Landscape with an Inn, along a Wooded Road and the work of Vermeer. The whole group is now attributed to Vermeer, and probably dates from 1650-1660. The watermark, which also appears in the paper of three other drawings by the artist, can be found as early as 1645.6 MR

1Jeroen Giltaij, ‘Tekeningen van Jacob Ruisdael’, Oud Holland 94 (1980), no. 2/3, pp. 177-178.

2Location unknown (oil on canvas; 81.9 × 84.4 cm); see Jeroen Giltaij, ‘Tekeningen van Jan (I) van der Meer van Haarlem’, Oud Holland 122 (2009), no. 2/3, pp. 151-152, fig. 8.

3Giltaij 1980, op. cit. (note 1), pp. 148-149; and Seymour Slive, Jacob van Ruisdael: a complete catalogue of his paintings, drawings and etchings, New Haven 2001, pp. 493-524, nos. D1-D43, reprs.

4Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv. no. 23017 (black chalk, with grey wash; 164 × 239 mm); see Frits Lugt, Musée du Louvre. Inventaire général des dessins des écoles du nord: École hollandaise, 3 vols., Paris 1929-1933, vol. 2, no. 670, repr., as ‘Jacob van Ruisdael’; Slive 2001, op. cit. (note 3), p. 686, no. dubD36, repr., as ‘anonymous’; and http://arts-graphiques.louvre.fr.

5Nowadays the inn is a café and a restaurant, known under the name of ‘t Wapen van Kennemerland.

6Theo Laurentius and Frans Laurentius, Watermarks 1600-1650 in the Zeeland archives, Houten 2007, nos. 648-660.