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Jan Both, A Rocky Italian Landscape with Herdsmen and Muleteers

Key facts
Full title A Rocky Italian Landscape with Herdsmen and Muleteers
Artist Jan Both
Artist dates about 1615 - 1652
Date made about 1645
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 103 × 125 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG956
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Rocky Italian Landscape with Herdsmen and Muleteers
Jan Both

The tranquillity of the Campagna – the countryside around Rome – stretches far into the distance under a soft golden light. Muleteers, who lived by transporting goods on the backs of their patient mules, move at a leisurely pace across the mountainous landscape, its paths winding in and out of rocky outcrops down to the misty valley.

The sun catches the white sleeves, collar and stockings of two men – making them a focus of the picture – as they stop for a rest and a chat in the shade close to us. But all is not quite as perfect as first appears. The mule behind the herdsmen carries heavy rolls hanging from a cumbersome wooden saddle. His head droops and his legs are painfully thin. Although Both paints the countryside as a romantic idyll he makes sure that, for a discerning eye, the realities of life in the Italian hills are visible.

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