Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Early in his career, the prolific landscapist Jan van Goyen produced a series of charming genre compositions situated outdoors. Here, a group of peasants is shown gathered by a field, monitoring a set of bird traps. Small cages positioned next to the nets already contain birds and serve as bait for attracting more game. The scene is observed by well-dressed members of upper-middleclass Dutch society, who are enjoying leisurely activities in the countryside. Van Goyen executed this drawing almost entirely in wash, masterfully modulating between the dark, heavy strokes that depict the foliage and the figures in the foreground, and the translucent gray that describes such minute background details as the carriage approaching the village from the right. Flocks of birds—the trappers’ ultimate target—can be seen flying in the distance, succinctly rendered by the artist with short horizontal brushstrokes.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Jan van Goyen, Dutch (Leiden, Netherlands 1596 - 1656 The Hague, Netherlands)
Bird Trappers
Work Type
Level 2, Room 2300, European Art, 17th–19th century, Seventeenth–Century Dutch and Flemish Art
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Physical Descriptions
Black ink and gray wash, over traces of black chalk on cream antique laid paper
14.7 x 26 cm (5 13/16 x 10 1/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: Gray wash, lower left: V. GOIEN 1625
  • watermark: Eagle with Basel Crozier, Single-Headed, with PVM [?] below
Probably Jacob de Vos Jacobszoon, Amsterdam (L. 1450). [Unidentified Auction House, Amsterdam, 30 October 1833, lot D 20], to De Vries. [Unidentified Auction House, Amsterdam, 20 November 1843, lot C 31], to Hodges. [Heim-Gairac, Paris, 1969]. Private Collector, Paris. [Thomas Le Claire, Hamburg]. Maida and George Abrams, Boston, 1988.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston, Massachusetts
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Hans-Ulrich Beck, Jan van Goyen 1596-1656, Davaco Publishers (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1972 - 1987), vol. 1, cat. no. Z52A, repr; vol. ?, cat. no. Z52A

Meisterzeichnugen 1500-1900, auct. cat., Thomas Le Claire Kunsthandel (Hamburg, Germany, 1989), cat. no. 22, repr.

William W. Robinson, Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exh. cat., H. O. Zimman, Inc. (Lynn, MA, 1991), cat. no. 32, pp. 82-83, repr.

William W. Robinson, Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2002), cat. no. 16, repr.

Exhibition History

Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 02/23/1991 - 04/18/1991; Albertina Gallery, Vienna, 05/16/1991 - 06/30/1991; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 01/22/1992 - 04/22/1992; Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/10/1992 - 12/06/1992

Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, British Museum, London, 06/13/2002 - 09/22/2002; Institut Néerlandais, Paris, 10/10/2002 - 12/08/2002; Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/22/2003 - 07/06/2003

32Q: 2300 Dutch & Flemish, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/08/2017 - 01/17/2018

The Art of Drawing in the Early Dutch Golden Age, 1590–1630: Selected Works from the Abrams Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/09/2017 - 01/14/2018

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