Mountainous Landscape with Travelers on a Road

Tobias Verhaecht Netherlandish

Not on view

Along a sandy road in the left foreground, three pilgrims are taking a rest. They are looking out over a river valley that stretches as far as the eye can see. Two remarkably spiky bare trees tilt over their heads, while a dense forest of pine trees covers the hills further to the left. The road, together with a river down in the valley, meander past a village and into the countryside.

The vastness and level of detail in this panorama is characteristic for the work of Tobias Verhaecht and his contemporary Netherlandish landscapists. It is the reason why their works are often referred to as ‘world landscapes’. During the mid-sixteenth century, Netherlandish artists had played an important role in the development of landscape in art, which would eventually become an independent genre. One of its most important precursors and innovators was Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1526–69). Prints after his designs, such as The Penance of St. Mary Magdalene in the Wilderness, reinforced dispersal of his inventions. Verhaecht’s drawing shows some noticeable Brueghelian influences, like the spiky trees in the foreground and the woolly, cone-like pines further to the left.

Verhaecht signed and dated this drawing prominently in the lower left corner; an indication that the highly finished sheet likely was regarded as an independent artwork. Six other dated sheets by the artist are known.[1]

Mountainous Landscape with Travelers on a Road is related to another drawing by Verhaecht, formerly in the Beck collection, Berlin.[2] With the exception of the figures in the foreground, the composition is largely the same. The sheet from the Beck collection, however, is executed in a much lighter, more elegantly handled pen, and is delicately colored throughout. This wash creates modulation and enhances the perspective more effectively than the scanty coloring in our drawing. How the two drawings relate to one another remains unknown. Since both are equally refined, it seems unlikely that one served as a preliminary sketch for the other. The most plausible explanation is that Verhaecht produced multiple versions of a successful formula, to be sold independently.

An undated painting in the collection of the Staatliche Museen in Berlin proves that Verhaecht reused parts of the composition from our landscape once again, this time enlivening the scene with a various travelers on the road in the left foreground.[3]

[1] These are New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, Inv.-Nr. 1957; St. Petersburg, Staatliches Museum Eremitage, Inv.-Nr. 15090, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, KdZ 2241 und KdZ 5851, Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kupferstich-Kabinett, Inv.-Nr. C 1929-147,, London, Victoria & Albert Museum, Inv.-Nr. Dyce 511, Corpus Gernsheim 53309; Düsseldorf, museum kunst palast, Sammlung der Kunstakademie (NRW), Inv.-Nr. FP 4813 and Budapest, Szépmüvészeti Museum, Inv.-Nr. 1914-20.

[2] Cf. W. Bernt, Die Niederländischen Zeichner des 17. Jahrhunderts. Munich: Bruckmann Verlag, 1979–80, vol. II, cat. no. 623. Tobias Verhaecht, Mountain Landscape with Wide River Valley, pen and brown ink, with brown and blue wash, 240 x 370 mm. Formerly Coll. Beck, Berlin; sold at auction, Sotheby's, Amsterdam, 15 November 1994, lot 89.

[3] Cf. W. Bernt, Die Niederländischen Maler und Zeichner des 17. Jahrhunderts. Munich: Bruckmann Verlag, 1980, vol. III, cat. no. 1354. Tobias Verhaecht, Mountainous River Valley, oil on wood, 56 x 85 cm. Staatlichen Museen, Berlin, inv. no. 2027.

Mountainous Landscape with Travelers on a Road, Tobias Verhaecht (Netherlandish, Antwerp 1561–1631 Antwerp), Pen and brown ink, brown and blue wash, black chalk

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