Bandits on a Rocky Coast

Salvator Rosa (Italian, Arenella (Naples) 1615–1673 Rome)

Oil on canvas
29 1/2 x 39 3/8 in. (74.9 x 100 cm)
Credit Line:
Charles B. Curtis Fund, 1934
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Neapolitan by birth, Salvator Rosa spent most of his life between Florence and Rome. He developed a particular type of landscape that became especially popular in the following centuries. It is typical for Rosa to place groups of small figures, in the guise usually of bandits or soldiers, within the context of rugged and menacing landscapes. The ferocity of the protagonists of these pictures is highlighted by the character of the landscape around them. Paintings such as this were particularly loved and collected in eighteenth-century England.

  • Catalogue Entry


  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed (lower left): SR [monogram?]

  • Provenance

    George Child-Villiers, 5th Earl of Jersey, Osterley Park, Isleworth, Middlesex (by 1857–d. 1859); Earls of Jersey, Osterley Park and Middleton Park, Bicester, Oxford (1859–1923); George Francis Child-Villiers, 9th Earl of Jersey, Middleton Park (1923–34; sale, Hampton & Sons, Middleton Park, May 28–June 1, 1934, no. 1966, as by Salvator Rosa, "Figures in a Rocky Coast Scene," companion to no. 1965, "Figures in a Rocky Landscape," 28 in. x 38 in.); [Durlacher, New York, 1934; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    New York. Durlacher Brothers. "A Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Salvator Rosa, 1615–1673," March 8–27, 1948, no. 10.

    Honolulu Academy of Arts. "Four Centuries of European Painting," December 8, 1949–January 29, 1950, no. 12.

    Art Gallery of Toronto. "Fifty Paintings by Old Masters," April 21–May 21, 1950, no. 12.

    Tokyo National Museum. "Treasured Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," August 10–October 1, 1972, no. 79.

    Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. "Treasured Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 8–November 26, 1972, no. 79.

    Wellesley College Museum. "Salvator Rosa in America," April 20–June 5, 1979, no. 4.

    Naples. Museo di Capodimonte. "Salvator Rosa: tra mito e magia," April 18–June 29, 2008, no. 66 (as "Ladri sulla scogliera").

    London. Dulwich Picture Gallery. "Salvator Rosa (1615–1673): Bandits, Wilderness and Magic," September 15–November 28, 2010, no. 26.

    Fort Worth. Kimbell Art Museum. "Salvator Rosa (1615–1673): Bandits, Wilderness and Magic," December 12, 2010–March 27, 2011, no. 26.

    Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. "Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 6, 2012–January 4, 2013, no. 99.

    Beijing. National Museum of China. "Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 8–May 9, 2013, no. 99.

  • References

    [Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain. London, 1857, p. 273, describes "two very poetic and carefully executed landscapes" by Rosa, hung above the doors in the drawing room of Osterley Park, one of which was apparently this picture.

    Durlacher Brothers. Letter to Harry B. Wehle. September 24, 1934, notes that Waagen published this work and Rosa's "Figures in a Rocky Landscape" (now Vassar College Art Gallery, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) as a pair and suggests that they were "so used" in Lord Jersey's house (Osterley Park).

    "Appreciation for Salvator Rosa, 'Decadent'." Art Digest 9 (May 15, 1935), p. 7, ill.

    Louise Burroughs. "A Landscape by Salvator Rosa." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 30 (April 1935), pp. 84–86, ill.

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 260, ill., notes that the left-hand part of this composition appears in a painting by Rosa in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome.

    Wylie Sypher. "Baroque Afterpiece, the Picturesque." Gazette des beaux-arts 27 (January 1945), p. 43, ill.

    Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), p. 4.

    Ottilie G. Boetzkes. Salvator Rosa: Seventeenth-Century Italian Painter, Poet, and Patriot. New York, 1960, pp. 140, 186, no. 47, ill.

    Luigi Salerno. Salvator Rosa. Milan, 1963, pp. 48, 124, fig. 43, dates it about 1656, the period in which Rosa dedicated a series of small engravings to his patron Carlo de Rossi; suggests that the figures in this picture relate to the series of engravings; observes that the soldier here appears almost identical to a figure in one of the engravings and a drawing in the Louvre, Paris; draws parallels between this painting and a similar work in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg; observes that Rosa's landscape with figures in the Doria Pamphilj includes a poor copy of the Met's figural group.

    Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Unpublished manuscript for catalogue of Neapolitan paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. [ca. 1970], date this picture about 1656, as it is related to the series of engravings dedicated in that year; remark that three figures at the left are repeated in the Doria Pamphilj picture, suggesting that the latter is either a preliminary study or, more likely, a roughly contemporaneous derivation of the MMA picture; note that our picture had a "companion piece" (now in the Vassar College Art Gallery), when it was in the collection of the Earl of Jersey, and although the dimensions are close there is no reason to believe they were conceived as a pair.

    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 177, 499, 607.

    Julius S. Held and Donald Posner. 17th and 18th Century Art: Baroque Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., [1972], p. 112.

    Mario Rotili. Salvator Rosa incisore. Naples, 1974, p. 74, fig. 18–89b, dates this picture about 1656–58 and compares it with Rosa's "capricci".

    Dizionario enciclopedico Bolaffi dei pittori e degli incisori italiani. 10, Turin, 1975, p. 10, considers this picture representative of Rosa's work after his return to Rome in 1649—the period in which the artist revolted against genre painting and tended to idealize his subjects.

    Luigi Salerno. L'opera completa di Salvator Rosa. Milan, 1975, p. 96, no. 138, fig. 46 (color)

    Peter Tomory. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings before 1800. Sarasota, 1976, p. 159, compares it with Rosa's "Landscape with a Lake, Mountains and Five Soldiers in the Foreground" (cat. no. 167), dating both about 1656.

    Richard W. Wallace. Salvator Rosa in America. Exh. cat., Wellesley College Museum. Wellesley, Mass., 1979, pp. 14–15, 23, ill., observes that this picture "has in abundance all of the characteristics that appeal to the romantics—a conspiratorial group of bandits isolated in the midst of a savage, hostile wilderness, one of them gesturing in the direction of the distant city near the horizon line; rugged, rocky cliffs and mysterious grottoes; a threatening sky, striking light effects, glittering highlighted textures and deep, gloomy shadows; and the broken, 'storm blasted' tree trunks".

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 293, 302, fig. 527 (color).

    Andrea Busiri Vici D'Arcevia. Jacob de Heusch (1656–1701): un pittore olandese a Roma detto il "copia". Rome, 1997, p. 159.

    Andreas Stolzenburg in Salvator Rosa, Genie der Zeichnung: Studien und Skizzen aus Leipzig und Haarlem. Exh. cat., Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig. Cologne, 1999, p. 132, mentions it in connection with a drawing by Rosa of two seated men in a landscape (Teylers Museum, Haarlem), also possibly from about 1656.

    Marco Chiarini. "Salvator Rosa." Art e dossier no. 243 (April 2008), ill. p. 39 (color), dates it about 1656.

    Wolfgang Prohaska in Salvator Rosa: tra mito e magia. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte. Naples, 2008, p. 212, under nos. 67 and 68, states that it was probably painted about 1656; finds the figure group very similar to those found in two oval landscapes with bandits in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; adds that the MMA painting is very closely related to Rosa's "River Landscape with Apollo and the Cumaean Sibyl" (Wallace Collection, London).

    Aurora Spinosa in Salvator Rosa: tra mito e magia. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte. Naples, 2008, pp. 210–11, no. 66, ill. (color).

    Keith Christiansen in Philippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977–2008. New York, 2009, p. 36.

    Helen Langdon in Salvator Rosa. Exh. cat., Dulwich Picture Gallery. London, 2010, pp. 35, 132, 183, 188–89, no. 26, ill. p. 189 and frontispiece (color, overall and detail).

    Xavier F. Salomon in Salvator Rosa. Exh. cat., Dulwich Picture Gallery. London, 2010, p. 190.

    Peter Barnet and Wendy A. Stein in Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. [Tokyo], 2012, p. 162, ill. pp. 35, 163 (color).

    Keith Christiansen in Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. [Tokyo], 2012, p. 249, no. 99, ill.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History