Age has not been kind to this lyrical evocation of the Roman Campagna (the countryside around the Italian city) and parts of it are now obscured. In the centre, a group of peasants – the picture’s focus – are at the turn of a path. One man pushes his laden mule up the slope towards us. A girl mounted on a mule is about to follow him. Another man heaves at a mule, whip in hand.
Jan Both was a Dutch artist who lived for a while in Rome, making sketches and drawings that he kept for his return home. There, his landscapes were painted in the studio and, with the low soft light that pervades them, they seem to radiate a memory of the warmth of Italy.
Age has not been kind to this lyrical evocation of the Roman Campagna (the countryside around the Italian city). Parts of it are now obscured, but what remains is a reminder of Jan Both’s skill in depicting the Italian landscape.
The sky, the blue-grey distance and the delicate leaves of trees whose branches reach up to the clouds are visible; we can make out a stretch of water and some of the pink rocks of the cliffs on the right. In the centre, the peasants are at the turn in a path. One man pushes his laden mule up the slope towards us. A girl mounted on a mule, her white neck scarf just visible below her dark hair, is about to turn to follow him. Following her, another man heaves at a mule, his back to the direction of travel and a whip in his hand. The animal’s head is stretched forward awkwardly, lifted in protest. Its load and the load of the mule behind it seem more than one creature could possibly carry – great bales heaped high on their heavy wooden saddles, with bulky panniers hung on either side.
Here and there, just a tiny piece of foliage or a strangely shaped rock are delicately and realistically painted. But one small section seems to shine out among the darkened foliage, almost making a small picture on its own. Set apart from the others, in the distance, a man in a dark waistcoat and white shirtsleeves hunches forward on his mule, his hat pulled over his eyes. He’s little more than an inch high, but he’s caught in a patch of dying sun. The pair travel away from us, ambling along the path that winds round the cliff side, rocks above them, rocks below them.
Both was a Dutch artist who lived for a while in Rome. He went out into the Campagna to make sketches and drawings that he kept for his return home to Utrecht. There, he painted his landscapes in the studio and, with the low soft light that pervades them, they seem to radiate a memory of the warmth of Italy.
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