Mountainous Landscape

Tobias Verhaecht Netherlandish

Not on view

The Netherlandish landscapist Tobias Verhaecht crossed the Alps on his way to Italy during the 1590s. This journey clearly left a lasting impression, as monumental mountain ranges and valleys would form a quintessential element in his work throughout his career. It is doubtful, however, that the fanciful rock formations depicted in this drawing have an actual equivalent in reality. The composition is likely to have sprung largely from Verhaecht’s imagination, rather than direct observation. Undeniably, the influential Alpine landscapes of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525–69) formed an important source of inspiration.

The landscape is executed in vigorous, broad pen strokes and loosely applied brown and blue washes. Verhaecht paid little attention to detail; note for example the four watermills, broadly sketched along the riverbanks. Trees, scattered around the landscape, are barely discernable from the fantastic rocks, as they are delineated in equally loose and elongated lines. The free execution of this drawing gives the impression that the artist worked at great speed. Possibly the sheet was intended as a compositional study for a painting. The formal language of this Mountain Valley is typical of the mannerism that characterized the early examples of Netherlandish landscape painting. High horizon and vast panoramic views are equally characteristic of sixteenth-century imagery.

Although Verhaecht’s work was still very popular at the time of its manufacture, his compositions were somewhat anachronistic from the work of his contemporaries, such as for example Denys van Alsloot (ca. 1570–ca. 1627) and Frederik van Valckenborch (ca. 1565/66–1623), who moved away from the mannerist fancy towards a greater sense of realism

An inscription on the backing sheet of this drawing indicates that the drawing once was in possession of the Venetian collector Zaccaria Sagredo (1653–1729). The letters "P.O." are thought to be an abbreviation of either "Paesaggio Olandese" or "Oltremontano", meaning Netherlandish or Northern landscape.[1] This Italian provenance may be an indication that the Mountain Valley was made during Verhaecht’s stay in Italy in the 1590s, and that the drawing may have stayed in Italy.

[1] Cf. Marques de Collections, Lugt 2103a

Mountainous Landscape, Tobias Verhaecht (Netherlandish, Antwerp 1561–1631 Antwerp), Pen and brown ink, brush and brown and blue wash

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