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Cornelis van Poelenburgh, 'Women bathing in a Landscape', about 1630

Key facts
Full title Women bathing in a Landscape
Artist Cornelis van Poelenburgh
Artist dates 1594/5 - 1667
Date made about 1630
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 35 × 43.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG955
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Women bathing in a Landscape
Cornelis van Poelenburgh

For those living in Utrecht in the 1630s, this painting must have seemed like a window onto an exotic world. A crowd of naked women pose elegantly while they talk and bathe in a river. Behind them loom the overgrown tower and arches of a Roman ruin, while the bright morning sky glows behind the farmhouses, foothills and distant mountains of what would have been immediately recognisable as an Italian landscape.

Paintings like this – offering a vision of the warm south and intellectual references to the lost world of the classics, as well as an excuse to enjoy female nudity – proved extremely popular. Van Poelenburgh was one of several Dutch artists of the time who travelled to train and study in Rome. They profited from what they had seen and learnt when they returned home, developing a lucrative market for paintings in this genre.

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