Aelbert Cuyp (1620-1691) was one of the most famous landscape painters from Dordrecht. He was trained by his father, Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (1594-1652), who himself was trained by Abraham Bloemaert in Utrecht. Here he met his future wife Aertken Cornelis van Koothendochter, who he married in 1618. Their son Aelbert, was probably sent to this city around 1639. Although no written evidence for his sojourn is Utrecht is known, the numerous drawings of the city confirm his stay there.
This painting made early in his career depicts a herdsman with cows in front of the city wall the Duitsche Huis and Mariakerk in Utrecht beyond. Cuyp painted the city wall from the west looking towards the chapel of the Duitsche Huis and the Mariakerk (Church of Saint Mary). The Duitsche Huis, of which the roof was destroyed in the 1674 storm, still exists. The German order of Knighthood, after which the place is named, houses here. The Mariakerk, famous trough paintings of Pieter Saenredam (1597-1665) (i.a. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam and Museo Thyssen Bornemisza Madrid) was already in decline in the seventeenth century. One of the two towers was shot in ruins during the Spanish siege in 1576.The other tower was severely damaged and lost its rooftop as can be seen in the picture. The church was demolished in the early nineteenth century.
Frits Lugt was the first to recognize the city wall of Utrecht in this picture and the related drawing in Berlin.
Dr. Alan Chong has confirmed the attribution to Aelbert Cuyp, upon first-hand inspection of the work (verbal communication, 17 April 2009).
In his dissertation (cat.no. 57, p. 304-305, New York University 1992) Chong compares this painting with the above mentioned related drawing in Berlin (Kupferstichkabinett inv.no. 5856, see picture). The seated shepherd appears in a drawing in the Lugt collection, Paris (inv. No. 4369) The cow on the left appears in a drawing from the Rijksmuseum (inv.no. 1962:79) Cuyp used this sheet with two studies of cows at least one more time since our lying cow also appears on a painting in the Hermitage museum in Leningrad (see Reiss cat.no. 57). The painting can be dated around 1645-1650.