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Albrecht Altdorfer, Landscape with a Footbridge

Key facts
Full title Landscape with a Footbridge
Artist Albrecht Altdorfer
Artist dates shortly before 1480 - 1538
Date made about 1518-20
Medium and support Oil on vellum on wood
Dimensions 41.2 × 35.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1961
Inventory number NG6320
Location On loan: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Chimei Museum, Tainan City, Taiwan
Collection Main Collection
Landscape with a Footbridge
Albrecht Altdorfer

This scene probably doesn't represent a particular place but is rather an impression of the Danube valley, where Altdorfer lived. It is one of two paintings by Altdorfer without figures, which reflected the development of landscape painting as a subject in its own right.

The low viewpoint emphasises the height of the wooden footbridge that leads to the gatehouse of a castle. It is the anchor of the scene, joining the building on the left to the wilderness on the right, connecting civilisation with nature. The true subject of the picture, however, is the detailed study of the enormous larch tree at the centre, its branches growing wildly in all directions.

The man-made structures seem frail by comparison to nature. Framed by the bridge’s stilt-like supports is a small village, the spire of its church reaching up above the treetops, minuscule in the shadow of the rocky mountain in the distance.

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