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At the centre of the composition stands a building with four arches, the third of which leads to a furnace. In the foreground, a cart laden with fuel and drawn by two oxen is led by a man wearing a classical tunic. Smoke pours out of the vents in the tiled roof and the rolling storm clouds at the left give way to rosy sky at the right.
While this is an ideal landscape painted in the studio, the scenery is based on the heavily wooded hilly region around the thermal town of Bagni di Lucca, to the north-west of Florence, where Fabre spent much of his life from 1793. He made numerous sketching expeditions in this area. It has been suggested that the central building is a charcoal burner, but it is more likely to represent a lime kiln or a furnace for smelting iron ore.
At the centre of the composition stands a building with four arches, the third of which leads to a furnace. In the foreground, a cart drawn by two oxen is led by a man wearing a classical tunic. The cart is loaded with fuel for the furnace, the bundles of straw peppered with yellow and pink meadow flowers. A further figure heads towards the furnace with a bundle on his shoulder. Smoke pours out of the vents in the tiled roof. In the background a hill rises very steeply, densely wooded in parts, and a further group of buildings, including a bell tower, is clustered on the top. The wind is blowing from the right; the smoke drifts to the left and the rolling storm clouds at the left give way to rosy sky at the right.
The landscape is based on the hilly region to the north-west of Florence, where Fabre spent much of his life from 1793. It is particularly reminiscent of the area around the thermal town of Bagni di Lucca, its hills heavily wooded, predominantly with chestnut forests, which provided a valuable crop. Local industries included the manufacture of paper and building materials. Fabre made numerous sketching expeditions into the countryside, from which many drawings survive. He also painted a number of compositions based on the local landscape and villages, several of which feature similar groups of buildings set on distant hills. Yet the central building here appears to be unique. It has been tentatively identified as a charcoal burner, but is more likely to represent a lime kiln or even a furnace for smelting iron ore, of which a number existed in the region. Against the wall to the left lies a pile of rocks, which could be either limestone or iron ore. This may be a fanciful element, alluding both to the area’s architecture and its industry.
In common with Fabre’s other landscapes based on the scenery of the area, this is essentially an ideal landscape with classical figures, painted in the studio. The central figure is based on one in a painting by Gaspard Dughet, Landscape with Drover (1664–8, Welbeck Abbey, Duke of Portland Collection). The image of the furnace itself recalls Italian landscape and genre paintings of the seventeenth century, examples of which Fabre owned as a keen collector. While no actual drawing of the region can be directly related to this painting, he did make a study of the cart and figure (Musée Fabre, Montpellier).
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