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Claude, 'Landscape with a Goatherd and Goats', about 1636-7

Key facts
Full title Landscape with a Goatherd and Goats
Artist Claude
Artist dates 1604/5? - 1682
Date made about 1636-7
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 52 × 42 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Sir George Beaumont, 1826
Inventory number NG58
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Landscape with a Goatherd and Goats

This small painting beautifully evokes the lushness of the natural world. A young man rests against the base of a tree and turns his head towards us. He holds one hand to his mouth as if playing a flute just out of view, a pose derived from images of the classical hero Orpheus charming the animals with his music. In classical art and literature, the shepherd or goatherd was often a symbol of a lost age of innocence or a celebration of solitude away from worldly cares.

This shady woodland scene, positioned on the edge of a flat landscape, allows a glimpse of a river beyond. The serpentine tree trunks on the left draw our eye through to the glistening stream and blue mountains in the distance. The precise delineation of the trees is based on close observation of nature, and the layering of paint for the foliage creates a subtle contrast between light and shade.

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