Aert van der Neer initially painted realistic tonal landscapes and winter scenes, but by the late 1640s, he developed his own specialty of nocturnes, or night scenes. These mysteriously dark, moonlit pictures established him as an innovative and important landscape painter. Nevertheless, from about 1659 he took on a second, rather short-lived career as a tavern keeper in Amsterdam. He went bankrupt in 1662 and at the time of his death in 1677 was quite heavily in debt.
Van der Neer used his consummate technical skills to create this nocturne’s radiance by applying multiple layers of translucent and opaque paint. Here, the luminous clouds have parted to reveal a full moon over a tranquil stream. The moonlight reflects off the water that separates the town at left from the village and the country estate with its ornate gate at right. The light glints off window panes, shines upon a fashionable couple in conversation by the gate, and provides safe passage for the people crossing the stone bridge.