Attributed to JAN HACKAERT
1628 — Amsterdam — 1685
Panoramic Landscape with Shepherds and Farmhouse on a Hill Overlooking the Seacoast
verso: various thumbnail compositional studies
traces of black chalk underdrawing, pen & brown ink, brush & grey wash. verso in black chalk perhaps later. 105/8 x 151/8" (268 x 384mm). some limited words on the verso in french. inscribed M. Ricci, unidentified collectors mark, shield and crown with initial F.L.
This beautifully tonal panorama includes shepherds attending their flock on a level area midway up a verdant hill topped with an old and simple building. The view flows down the hill to our eye level, and still further below to the coast and the sea. Much of the hill is in shadow, but the sun breaks through to lighten the shepherds, some treetops, some rocky outcroppings, including those on which the artist stood, as well as all of the coastal area and sea. Coloristic effects are created by the use of brown ink contours and grey wash shading. The sweep of the view is almost awe-inspiring, and must have been to this draftsman. The compositional type is not novel but rather typical of many Northern landscapes of the early 17th century, beginning with Herman Swanevelt. Nor is the technique innovative, but rather fully founded in earlier works. Yet we do not see either the classicizing subject matter and compositional type of 18th c. Northern artists, nor their clarity and refinement of technique, such as with the Moucheron. Nor is this comparable to the easy, free and loose technique and compositional sense of Vanvitelli.
Most unusual, is the lack of interest in architecture or ruins, so beloved in the landscapes of most Northern visitors, from the 16th through 18th centuries. Might the explanation lie with an attribution to the Dutchborn artist Jan Hackaert who is known to have travelled several times to Switzerland between 1653-1656, but is not thought to have been to Italy. Rather he was very influenced by artists who were, such as Assleyn and Both; and it is known that he owned some drawings by Both which he copied. Perhaps, then the present drawing is a vision or version of an Italian landscape gleaned from Both or another compatriot traveller. This was a quite usual practice in the 17th century among Netherlandish artists. Perhaps the French words inscribed on the verso were learned in Switzerland, or simply put there at a later date by another artist. The technique on the recto, simple and clear, with its use of 2 colors of ink, lack of drawn sky, and figure type, all seem to point to Hackaert as the author.