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Jan Both, Peasants with Mules and Oxen

Key facts
Full title Peasants with Mules and Oxen on a Track near a River
Artist Jan Both
Artist dates about 1615 - 1652
Date made about 1641-3
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 39.6 × 58.1 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG959
Location Room 19
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Peasants with Mules and Oxen
Jan Both

The sun sinks behind a steep Italian hillside, casting a soft, gold light over a meandering river in the valley below. But the chill of evening is perhaps settling in. Huddled in his coat, his hat well down over his ears, a man rides his mule side-saddle.

Behind them, a peasant drives two oxen down the mountain path. He raises his hand as if his attention has been caught, perhaps by a bird. A leafless tree on the right saves the scene from becoming too idyllic, its harsh, angular shape contrasting with the soft, fine leaves of the beech trees.

Jan Both came from Utrecht; young painters from here often crossed the Alps for a stay in Italy. He lived in Rome, and went out into the countryside to sketch from nature. When he returned to Utrecht, Jan turned his raw material into a series of landscapes suffused by a rich, golden light, which were popular with Dutch collectors.

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