Aert van der Neer observed the low-lying Dutch landscape with its commonplace rural structures through the lens of natural phenomena. The elements of his vistas were often plain, as seen here in the foreground fields, the mid-ground windmill, and the boats and buildings in the distance. But neither those elements nor their exact location is the subject of this painting. Rather, van der Neer paints moonlight as it streams through hovering clouds and casts an opalescent gleam upon the waters. He conceals the moon behind the prominent windmill at the center of the canvas, underscoring his intention to paint not the light source but the effect of its illumination. And that light from behind transforms the quotidian structure into a marvelous and monumental silhouette that dominates a landscape engulfed in mysterious shadows deftly painted in a brilliant range of subtle tones: deep violet-black, translucent rose-gray, and glistening light-struck white.
From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)
Artist Aert van der Neer, Dutch, 1603-1677
  • Moonlit Landscape with a Windmill
Date early to mid 1650s
Medium Oil on oak panel
Dimensions Unframed: 15 1/16 × 22 3/16 inches (38.3 × 56.4 cm)
Framed: 22 1/2 × 29 3/4 × 1 7/8 inches (57.2 × 75.6 × 4.8 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase; gifts from James E. Scripps, Alfred J. Fisher, Mr. and Mrs. Edgar B. Whitcomb, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Field, Mr. and Mrs. Lee Hills, Richard H. Webber, Julie du Charme Marigliano, Edmund Delbos, Mrs. James S. Holden, Mrs. Elizabeth H. Coots and Carl F. Clarke by exchange
Accession Number 2001.35
Department European Painting
On View Dutch Golden Age S380, Level 3 (see map)
Signed Signed, lower right: AVDN [artist's monogram]
Sir Francis Cook [1817-1901], created baronet in 1886 (Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, England);
by descent to his son, Sir Frederick Cook [1844-1920] (Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, England);
by descent to his son, Sir Herbert Cook [1868-1939] (Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, England);
by descent to his son, Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook [1907-1978] (Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, England);
ca. 1958, (Thomas Agnew and Sons, London, England);
private collection (England);
2001, (Galerie Sanct Lucas, Vienna, Austria);
2001-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Kronig, J.O. A Catalogue of Paintings at Doughty House, Richmond and Elsewhere in the Collection of Sir Frederick Cook, Bt.: Dutch and Flemish Schools. London, 1914, p. 64, no. 296. [no mention of monogram.]

Hofstede de Groot, C. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII Jahrhunderts, vol. 7. Esslingen and Paris, 1918, p. 430, no. 289. [no mention of monogram.]

Brockwell, M.W. Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House Richmond, Surrey in the Collection of Sir Herbert Cook, Bart. London, 1932, p. 37, no. 296. [no mention of monogram.]

Schulz, Wolfgang. Aert van der Neer. Ghent, 2002, p. 212, no. 320. [as “Wide Moonlit River Landscape with a Central Windmill Hiding the Moon”]

Masters of Dutch Painting: The Detroit Institute of Arts. London, 2004, pp. 144-145.

Keyes, G.S. "A Brief History of the European Paintings Collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts with a Focus on the Dutch School." in the catalogue for The European Fine Art Fair(TEFAF). Maastricht 2005, pp. 10-15.

Bulletin of the DIA: Notable Acquisitions, 2000–2015 89, no. 1/4 (2015): p. 11 (ill.).