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Landscape with a River and Boats
Giovanni Battista Viola
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A number of boats navigate a pale turquoise lake that is surrounded on all sides by dark trees. The white sail of the vessel in the middle ground provides a bright accent, its curve complementing the shape of the branches at top left. In the foreground, two men stand on the shore, talking and leaning on their fishing rods; to the right, a passenger plays the lute as his boat pushes off. Few seem concerned with work.

Idealised, imaginary landscape views were extremely popular in seventeenth-century Italy. It is possible that this one, like its companion piece Landscape with Hunting Party, was made to hang above a door in the Palazzo Giustiniani in Rome. Viola has borrowed certain details within the painting – the sailing boat left of centre, for example – from a work by the celebrated painter Domenichino (private collection). He is also known to have studied the work of Annibale Carracci, to whom this painting was once attributed.

Key facts
Artist Giovanni Battista Viola
Artist dates 1576 - 1622
Full title Landscape with a River and Boats
Date made early 17th century
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 95.3 x 132.1 cm
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG56
Location in Gallery Not on display
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