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Cows Crossing a Ford with a Couple and a Dog
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Nicolaes Berchem
Dutch, 1656
Black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown and gray wash with contours incised
5 1/2 x 7 1/8 in.
2004.56

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A man and woman lead their herd across a shimmering ford. The woman has already entered the shallow water and hikes up her skirt. A hefty cow tentatively dips its front hooves into the water. The hatted herdsman brings up the rear with a long stick in his hand. The group's movement is anchored around a pair of large trees that cross at the center of the composition.

Nicolaes Berchem liberally applied brown wash to the figures, animals, and central trees. Pools of wash in the foreground water evoke cast shadows. Behind the group, layers of gray wash contrast with the white paper to convey raking, midday sunlight. On top of the gray wash, Berchem's sketchy use of pen and brown ink suggest slightly rugged foliage.

During the mid-1600s, Berchem was one of the most popular Dutch artists working in an Italianate style. This drawing does not feature any typical Italian motifs, like columns or ruins, but the sun-drenched scene suggests an idyllic Mediterranean setting. In the century after Berchem's death, collectors across Europe sought out these pastoral views. To meet the continued demand for his work, engravings were made after his drawings; this sheet was incised to be made into a print.