Both dead and alive, a mighty, uprooted tree trunk, together with a tangle of stumps, roots, and branches, is the sole subject of this drawing. Savery, like several other Netherlandish artists around 1600, was fascinated by such highly charged animations of natural forms. Savery might have encountered this tree during his extended journey to the Swiss and Tyrolean Alps, from 1606 to 1608, on which he fulfilled the order of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (r. 1576–1612) "to search for rare wonders of nature." This sheet corresponds with the chalk-and-wash studies from that trip; it unites a naturalist's attentive eye with the restless energy of late Mannerist art. Savery developed his initial graphite sketch with breathtaking assurance, alternating layers of colored washes with charcoal, which he dipped in oil and applied in strokes both hatched and crosshatched, narrow and broad, dark and light.
Signature: At lower left, signed "R Savery f" in pen and brown ink
Inscription: Verso: at lower left, inscribed "Roeland Lucas 1526-39" in graphite; at lower center, inscribed "30:39" in graphite
Marking: Watermark at center-right. Verso: at upper center, a collector's mark (?)
Private Collection, The Netherlands; Lodewijk Arnold Houthakker (Dutch, 1926–2008); Vendor: Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel, Munich
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," May 9, 2017–August 7, 2017.
Carmen C. Bambach, Colta Ives, Nadine Orenstein, Michiel C. Plomp, Perrin Stein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1999-2000." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 58, no. 20, Fall 2000, entry written by Michiel C. Plomp, p. 31, ill.
Marijn Schapelhouman, Frits Scholten "Acquisitions: Eleven Drawings and a Statue, a Selection from the Van Regteren Altena Donation." in the Rijksmuseum Bulletin. vol. 57, Amsterdam, 2009, p. 102, under cat. 8.