We have recently purchased this landscape painting at auction at Tennant’s. It is attributed to the Dutch seventeenth-century painter Nicolaes Berchem the elder and has a provenance from Belton House.
The painting depicts an Italian landscape, with beautifully arranged clouds, mountains and buildings, picturesque human figures and nicely observed animals. Berchem is not thought to have visited Italy himself, adopting this subject matter and style from the ‘Italianate’ Dutch painters of the period. So this is pure ‘art’, the expression of an ideal rather than the copying of reality.
This Berchem was owned by the 1st Lord Brownlow and was at Belton in 1809. It descended in the Cust family, but by 1958 it was in the hands of the London dealer Alfred Brod.
The Tennant’s catalogue entry mentioned that there is another version of this painting in the Louvre (with inventory no. 1040), which appears to be very close to the Belton Berchem.
The Louvre painting was formerly owned by the house of Orange, but was taken to Paris in 1795, presumably by the Revolutionary French troops who invaded Holland in that year. The pre-1809 history of the Belton painting is as yet unknown.