(b. 1625, Enkhuizen, d. 1654, Amsterdam)
Cattle and Sheep in a Stormy Landscape1647
Oil on panel, 46 x 38 cm
National Gallery, London
The atmosphere in this small painting appears almost threatening. The dramatic formation of white and dark gray clouds contrasts with a few patches of blue, and it is uncertain whether a storm is building or the sky is about to clear up. Seen from below and positioned against the brightest portion of the sky, the young bull and the black cow in the foreground become monumental, commanding presences. In the background the lighting is reversed, Here, the peacefully resting and grazing animals, bathed in sunlight, are surrounded by windswept trees and silhouetted against the menacing dark clouds.
Cows have traditionally been associated with the earth, fecundity, prosperity and spring - associations that in the context of seventeenth-century Netherlands can be linked to the importance of dairy farming to the Dutch economy. Dairy farming was at its most successful toward the middle of the century, and during this time cows became popular pictorial subjects.
The painting is signed and dated lower left: Paulus. Potter. f. 1647.