Artist: Pietro da Cortona (Pietro Berrettini) (Italian, Cortona 1596–1669 Rome)
Date: ca. 1630
Medium: Brush and gray wash, touches of pen and brown ink, over traces of black chalk, with an illusionistic frame drawn in yellow and brown wash
Dimensions: Sheet: 14 9/16 x 19 5/16 in. (37 x 49 cm)
Credit Line: Purchase, 2002 Benefit Fund, 2003
Accession Number: 2003.101
A work of the artist's mature years, this composition was probably a presentation piece for a patron, judging from its high degree of finish and virtuoso technique. The drawing was painted almost entirely with the tip of the brush to obtain delicately pictorial effects of light (for example, in the rays emanating from between the clouds and in the highlights on the bark of the trees), and an atmospheric conception of space. It portrays an idyllic, classically inspired scene in which the magnificent scale and robust vegetation of the landscape, with ancient Roman ruins and distant towns and farmhouses, overpower the small figures of the farm laborers harvesting grapes in the foreground.
The dynamic presentation of the scene and the dazzling technical skill seen here attest Pietro da Cortona's stature as one of the most innovative landscapists in Baroque art. With its obvious reference to the seasonal bounties of autumn, the drawn scene may have been drawn in connection with a painting cycle (in fresco or canvas) to decorate the interior of a villa or palazzo. During the 1630s, when the artist most was engaged in a number of villa decorations in Rome and the countryside, and also at work on the festive mythological frescoes of the Pitti Palace in Florence.
(Carmen C. Bambach, 2003)