The Threatened Swan

Jan Asselijn1640 - 1652


Amsterdam, Netherlands

The threatened swan, c. 1650. With outstretched wings and arched neck, the swan is protecting her eggs from a dog, which is approaching menacingly from the left. The fierceness of the bird is emphasized by the feathers flying through the air. The artist has rendered the swan from a low vantage point, so that it appears even larger. Jan Asselijn owes his fame primarily to his Italianizing landscapes. The fact that he was also proficient in the depiction of animals is evident in this painting. The texts which appear in the painting were added later: under the swan DE RAAD PENSIONARIS (Grand Pensionary), on one of the eggs HOLLAND; and above the dog DE VIAND VAN DE STAAT (the enemy of the state). The inscriptions have a political significance, referring to Johan de Witt, who as Grand Pensionary (1653 - 1672) defended the country against many of its enemies. Purchased in 1800, from the collection of Jan Gildemeester Jzn (Amsterdam).


  • Title: The Threatened Swan
  • Creator: Jan Asselijn
  • Creator Death Place: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Creator Birth Place: Dieppe, France
  • Date Created: 1640 - 1652
  • Style: Northern Netherlands School
  • Provenance: Sale Jan Gildemeester Jansz., Amsterdam, 11 June 1800, lot nr. 2
  • Physical Dimensions: w1710 x h1440 mm
  • Original Title: De bedreigde zwaan; later opgevat als allegorie op Johan de Witt
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: See more on the Rijksmuseum website
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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