This attractive early 18th-century oil on canvas depicts several figures with horses before an idealised rural landscape with distant village.
The artist has drawn inspiration from the imagined landscapes of French baroque painters, particularly Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665). Artists working in this manner would combine elements from their own natural world with fictional components from antiquity. There’s every chance that the village with its conspicuous campanile (belltower) actually exists but probably not in this actual view.
Poussin was a master of this style of landscape in every sense of the word. Much of his approach was pioneering and lauded by peers and critics. In this piece, we see a technique that he often employed to great effect - the use of “coulisses” or “theatre wings”. Essentially this term refers to the trees at either side of the composition that guide the eye, while also creating depth of field.
We also see another of his frequently employed elements in the use of foreground focus, which acts like a stage. Note how the figures on the right are lit more prominently than the foreground on the left.
Paintings such as this would’ve been popular on the continent in the early 18th-century, particularly with middle-class buyers. The artist here is unknown but evidently well-versed in the nuances of proficient landscape painting.
Housed in a swept gilt frame with foliate.
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 23” x 18½” / 58cm x 47cm
Year of creation: c. 1700
Condition: Craquelure but the paint is stable. Canvas relined. Minor bump in canvas. Old repair. Frame with some light wear.