Jan Abrahamsz. Beerstraten (Amsterdam 1622 - 1666 Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Jan Abrahamsz. Beerstraten (Amsterdam 1622 - 1666 Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

In a cloudy day of winter, some people attend church and some people skate or chat on the frozen river.

Artwork details

Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 93 x 128cm (unframed), 123 x 158.5cm (framed)
Date: 1661
Signed: Signed and dated in lower right corner: J. Berestraaten ft. / 1661
Accession No: WAG 6610

Jan Abrahamsz. Beerstraten was the eldest and most successful of an artistic family. He specialised in wintry views of Dutch townscapes and lived in Amsterdam where he produced his earliest dated scenes in the 1650s.1| After 1660 he branched out across the Netherlands to paint castles, towns and villages. These scenes, often viewed under leaden skies and a light dusting of snow, surrounded by frozen rivers, canals and frosted trees, successfully recreate a crisp wintry atmosphere. Although many of the villagers who skate, gossip, attend church and go about their daily tasks in the Walker’s picture might seem to be stock figures, none reappear in other known works by Beerstraten, apart from the back view of a man skating with one foot in the air.2|

The Walker’s painting was formerly thought to be related to the view of 'Nieukoop Church, near Woerden, in Winter' (Kunsthalle, Hamburg).3| However, in 1996 the castle in the Liverpool picture was identified by Wouter Kuyper as an accurate depiction of Huys te Warmont at the village of Warmond, north of Leiden.4| The castle was rebuilt in two stages in 1597 and 1629. The 1629 wing was designed by the Dutch classicist architect, Salomon de Bray, to incorporate elements of the old medieval castle, which had been partially destroyed during the Spanish siege of Leiden in 1574 and can be seen in the painting in front of the older, taller chimnied wing.5|

The house underwent further rebuilding in the late eighteenth-century and is still to be found in parkland to the north of Warmond, sited on an old dune barrier, surrounded by water on three sides.6|

In the 1660s the lord of Warmond was a Catholic, Jan van Wassenaer (1626-1687), who in 1660 had himself portrayed with his daughter and deceased wife by The Hague artist Arnold van Ravesteijn (Warfusée Castle, near Liège).7| It is possible that Van Wassenaer, who remarried in 1661, might also have commissioned Beerstraten to portray his landed property in the same year, as it is unlikely that the artist would have painted the castle without there being a prospect of a sale.8| The minute church tower that can be seen in the background of the painting (to the right) poking above the sand-dunes across the river Leede (which in reality is not as close to the castle as depicted by Beerstraten) may be the small Roman Catholic chapel that the Wassenaers had in their grounds in the second half of the seventeenth century, though chapels rarely had towers.9|

Contrary to the view in the painting, however, there was no church sited near the castle, and the church shown in the painting does not resemble the old church at Warmond, which was demolished by the Spanish in 1573, leaving only a ruined tower.  Kuyper believed that although the body of the church shown in the Walker’s painting was probably a generic invention its tower might represent an actual church, yet to be identified, and possibly inserted at the request of the patron. In 2005 the present owner of Huys te Warmont suggested that the church, or at least its tower, was very similar to the village church at Voorschoten, some seven miles south of Warmond, to which a separate Protestant branch of the Van Wassenaers had given a lot of money and had their family tomb.10| Mr. Grooters also pointed out the similarity to Voorschoten church as shown in a sketch (in Leiden city archive) drawn in 1574 by an anonymous artist and illustrated in a history of the Van Wassenaer family.11| It would, therefore, seem possible that Beerstraten was commissioned in 1661 by Jan van Wassenaer to paint a combined portrait of one of his properties, the castle at Warmond, and his relatives' church, despite the fact that the two buildings were in different villages several miles apart.


John Miller (1795/6-1873/8);12| Joseph Robinson; by descent to Kenneth Robinson13| by whom bequeathed to the Walker in 1967 and presented by his widow in 1988.

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  1. In 1653 he painted a view of Amsterdam’s fire-damaged old town hall and in 1659 its 'Oude Kerk in the Winter', both in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
  2. See for example Beerstraten’s views of 'Sloten Church' (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and Metropolitan Museum, New York ('Skating at Sloten, near Amsterdam') illustrated in the 'Bulletin van Het Rijksmuseum', 1968 no.2 pp.52-3 and 'Groot Poelgeest Castle', Christie’s, London 8 December 2004 lot 44.
  3. Note on accession card relating it to the painting as illustrated in the 'Katalog der Alten Meister der Hamburger Kunsthalle', 1966, p.19 no.9 and in A Pigler 'Katalog der Galerie Alter Meister' of the Budapest Academy, 1967, p.49 no.53.496.
  4. Letter in gallery file 18/11/1996. See also W Kuyper, 'Dutch Classicist Architecture: A Survey of Dutch Architecture, Gardens and Anglo-Dutch Architectural Relations from 1625-1700', Delft University Press, 1980, pp.132-3 footnote 10. For a view of the ruined old church tower of Warmond as painted by Jan van Goyen in 1644 see 'Jan van Goyen', Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, 1996, cat.no.32.
  5. Email from Piet van der Plas, 11/11/2007.
  6. Email letter from present owner, Lodewijk Grooters, 14 August 2005.
  7. 'Jan Steen Painter and Storyteller', exhibited National Gallery Washington and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1996, cat.no.12, p.135.
  8. Wouter Kuyper letters in gallery file 1/12/2003 and 12/1/04.
  9. Kuyper letter 12/01/04.
  10. Lodewijk Grooters, email 17 October 2005.
  11. J Aalbers 'Heren van stand Van Wassenaer 1200-2000: achthonderd jaar Nederland adelsgeschiednis', Zoetermeer, 2001, p.73.
  12. John Miller was a Liverpool tobacco merchant and art collector. 
  13. On the reverse a printed frame-makers label for R. Jackson & Sons, 18a Slater Street, Liverpool 1 has the address of Mr [K?] Robinson written on it.