17th-Century Flemish Landscape With Well & Coastal View

17th-Century Flemish Landscape With Well & Coastal View

An extensive 17th-century Flemish landscape painting depicting a group of travellers resting by an ancient well. Four figures are standing closest to the well with two appearing to fill vessels with water. While behind them, a family are sitting alongside two further horseback riders and a lively dog.

Through the centre of the composition, a river appears to extend out towards the coast - weaving its way through an undulant landscape. And on our left, the ruins of an ancient fortification are cut into the rocks.

The painting dates to around 1650 and it’s fascinating to think that landscape painting, as we know it, only gained prominence around 100 years earlier. Prior to that, it was frowned upon in favour of works with a historical or religious narrative. But in around 1550, the pioneering artist, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525-1569) challenged the perception of landscape painting with many fine works that featured regular townsfolk and everyday scenes.

Soon after, an emerging class of wealthy merchants and traders sought to decorate their homes with paintings, engravings and prints that represented the world they knew. And to meet this growing demand, painters and printmakers from the major cities (Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden, The Hague, Rotterdam, and particularly Antwerp) sprung into action.

Paintings such as this were rarely commissioned, they were often bought from fairs or markets directly from the artist or their assistant. In that respect, you can imagine that it was a little similar to the modern-day - but rather than a hot coffee, you’d be carrying around a jug of ale. It was probably a bit noisier too.

I find the well in this painting quite intriguing and perhaps it had some historical significance. There appear to be two figures, probably from antiquity, standing atop it. Do let us know if you’re familiar with this area as it was probably an actual place rather than an imagined location.

The painting is housed within a later frame and bears a restoration label from Bo Åke Wildenstam (1918-1995) - a Swedish conservator and painter.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 35½” x 28½” / 90cm x 72cm
Year of creation: c. 1650
Provenance: Sweden
Condition: Its dark appearance is primarily due to pigments fading over time. It's been recently cleaned. Canvas relined. Craquelure throughout but the paint layer is broadly stable. Frame with some age-related wear as you would expect.

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