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Flemish School

circa 1560

Two Spacious Wooded Landscapes with Farmhouses and Figures. 2 etchings, each measuring circa 21 x 29.2 cm. Unrecorded.

These suggestive, vividly treated landscapes show stylistic analogies to the set of twenty-four engravings entitled Landscapes from the Environs of Brussels by Hans I Collaert (Hollstein IV, 149–172, The New Hollstein, The Collaert Dynasty, V, 1229 – 1252). Because of the inscription on the title page of the second edition published by Claes Jansz. Visscher, Hans Bol was long considered to have been the author of the original drawings, but today his authorship no longer seems certain.

Collaert’s engravings show a comparable landscape layout and compositional structure. The artist is tempted to fill the expansive, panoramic landscapes with a wealth of genre-like details, giving rise to a complex, spatially not always convincing blend of trees, architecture and small, variously employed staffage figures and animals. Certain topoi, like the slender, intertwining tree trunks, the ornamental tracery of the branches, and the wind-tossed foliage, recur in similar form in both these etchings.

Another favourite motif is country folk carrying baskets descending a steep path. People and animals seem strangely puppetlike and schematic. All in all, however, Collaert’s treatment is somewhat drier and more austere. These two landscapes are executed in a freer etching technique aimed at a picturesque effect, even if the linework is cruder and more primitive. Trees and foliage create an effective chiaroscuro and the actors are characterized in a livelier and more expressive way. A comic little scene has been sketched in the right foreground, where a wagon is coming to grief. A stout peasant woman is tumbling head over heels out of the wagon to the evident consternation of two ducks, which are swimming off with all speed. The identity of the etcher remains unclear. Both prints have a definite trial character, so they may represent a one-off exercise in etching technique.

Superb impressions, printing with remarkable contrasts and tone, with full margins. One print before the reduction of the plate and with numerous needle scratches along the platemark. Extremely rare. The Rijksprentenkabinett in Amsterdam possesses an impression from the reduced plate of the latter print.

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