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A Picturesque Landscape with a Cowherd. Pen and brown ink over chalk, brown wash. 49.6 x 36.7 cm. Signed: “Bartolo Gazale fec.”
The Genoa-born draughtsman and etcher, Bartolomeo Gazalis, is known to have spent the years between 1720 and 1730 in Milan, where he presumably collaborated with Alessandro Magnasco. Little is known about Gazalis’ biography and oeuvre. He made two etchings after compositions by Magnasco that are extremely rare. His printed oeuvre has recently been extended by a series of seventeen etchings entitled “Animali diversi e capricci boscherecci” (see G. Mori, “Note su Bartolomeo Gazalis”, in: Rassegna di Studi e di Notizie, vol. 22, year 25 (1998), pp. 325–354; The Illustrated Bartsch, vol. 46, Commentary, pp. 83–90, nos. 103–116). These small-scale depictions of animals, which were formerly attributed to G. B. Castiglione, are very similar in stylistic and iconographical respects to those in the present drawing.
The large sheet shows a broad, picturesque landscape treated in a free and vigorous manner but with a detailed rendering of the individual features of the terrain and the vegetation. The composition has been skilfully arranged with an eye for theatrical effect. In the right foreground a young cowherd is leading cattle to a watering place; on the opposite bank a little dog is barking excitedly. Weathered, criss-crossed tree trunks with widely spreading branches and a rock ledge covered with lush marsh vegetation dominate the left-hand side of the picture, giving the pastoral scene colourfulness and atmosphere. Visible on the horizon are a dilapidated tower and a picturesque farmstead in front of a bizarre mountain backdrop. All these compositional elements blend to produce an effective, almost stage-like setting. A part of the herd in the foreground has been only sketchily indicated, which gives the work the charm of the infinito. Only a few drawings by the artist have survived. The present fully signed sheet is, therefore, of considerable documentary relevance.