This is a painting composed with the thriftiest of means. Sunlight plays the leading role. It shines through a break in the clouds for the brief moment captured by the artist, lighting up a section of the sandy back of a dune and a weather-beaten board fence. The dune landscape so typical of the environs of Jacob van Ruisdael’s native Haarlem turns up repeatedly in his oeuvre. Unlike the otherwise customary ideal landscapes, works such as this one offered his Dutch contemporaries a special means of identifying with their newly independent country.
Having fled from France in 1689 for religious reasons, the Calvinist Gontard family soon rose to wealth in Frankfurt. Their city mansion 'Zum weißen Hirsch' lay in Großer Hirschgraben in the neighbourhood of those of the Goethe and Passavant families. The merchant and art collector Moritz von Gontard (1826-1886) was chairman of the five-man administrative committee of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut for a long time until his death. Gontard made a gift to the museum on two occasions: once for the opening of the new building in Schaumainkai, completed in 1878, which he took as an opportunity to present the museum with Lucas Cranach's 'Venus'. Eight years later Moritz von Gontard died and bequeathed to the Städel his art collection, consisting of thirty-three Dutch and Flemish Baroque painting with a total value of over 100,000 marks.