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Work Landscape with a Group of Figures to the Left

Department of Prints and Drawings: 17th century

Paysage, avec un groupe de figures à gauche

Prints and Drawings
17th century

Author(s):
Mancini Federica

Discovered by J. Gere as part of an anonymous estate, this sheet belongs to a rich body of graphic works by Salvator Rosa, including other landscape drawings. The use of light and color, and the lively graphic notation, make this one of Rosa's most remarkable drawings.

The iconography of the real

This astonishingly realistic landscape takes the natural scene as its principal subject. At the center, three intertwined tree trunks with sparse foliage and stark branches are depicted in minute detail, down to the texture of the bark and the foreshortened knots in the wood. The mountains in the background lead the eye to a distant point where clouds seem to overspill the range of peaks. To the left of the sheet, the group of figures sketched in a seemingly continuous outline testifies to Rosa's virtuoso skill as a draughtsman, and his masterful, almost nonchalant economy of line. The meticulously-layered gray wash (at its darkest on the lower half of the sheet) enhances the naturalism of the drawing's tonal and chromatic range.

Landscape drawing: a genre in its own right

This exceptionally fresh and beautiful drawing is notable for its painterly qualities, but to date it has never been linked to a finished painting, for which it might have been executed as a preparatory study. There are, however, a number of paintings by Rosa in very much the same spirit, notably Polycrates Accepting the Fish, in Chicago, and the Finding of Moses, in Detroit. These similarities support a view that the piece should be seen as a finished work in its own right. The proposed date, towards the end of the 1650s, is based on similarities to a drawing in the Albertina in Vienna, also a landscape.

Bibliography

Monbeig-Goguel Catherine, Vitzthum W., Le Dessin à Naples du XVIe au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1967, notice 42.

Salvator Rosa, Londres, Hayward Gallery, 1973, notice 67.

Bacou Roseline, La Collection Saint-Morys au Cabinet des Dessins du musée du Louvre, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1987, notice 99.

Bacou Roseline, Bean Jacob, Le Dessin à Rome au XVIIe siècle, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1988, notice 130.

Technical description

  • Salvator ROSA (Arenella, 1615 - Rome, 1673)

    Landscape with a Group of Figures to the Left

    circa 1650-60

  • Pen and black ink, gray wash, preparatory underdrawing in red chalk

    H. 20.6 cm; W. 33 cm.

  • Saint-Morys collection; confiscated as the property of emigrés fleeing the 1789 Revolution.

    INV 14094

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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