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Jakob Philipp Hackert

(1737 Prenzlau – 1807 San Piero di Careggio)

Landscape near Fossombrone. Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over graphite. 34.7 x 45.4 cm. Signed: "Ph. Hackert f.", inscribed in the upper left-hand corner by the artist’s own hand and dated: "pres de Fossombrone. 1776". Nordhoff 691.

Jakob Philipp Hackert, the landscape painter par excellence of Goethe’s day, made a name for himself shortly after his move to Rome in 1768. His stay in the Eternal City lasted a total of eighteen years, in which time Hackert justified his reputation as the most significant interpreter of landscape of his era. In 1769, shortly after his arrival in Rome, Hackert began systematically exploring the landscape of his new home country in search of inspiration and motifs for his painting. Hackert was a tireless traveller with a passion for knowledge. In the spring of 1769, together with his fellow artists Johann Gottlieb, Johan Tobias Sergel and Antoine François Gallet, he undertook his first journey on foot through the Alban Hills and made other trips to Frascati and Grottaferrata. Countless other expeditions were to follow, taking him to such lesser known regions of Italy as the Latium, the Abruzzi, and the Marches. The place names and dates on many of his drawings bear eloquent testimony to his dedication to travel.

This pleasant scene was drawn in the summer of 1776, while Hackert was on a two-month hike through Umbria and the Marches that was to take him as far north as Ravenna. It is an extremely characteristic example of the kind of veduta drawings he made on these extended journeys of exploration, undoubtedly with a view to sale. Hackert has depicted the vast, imposing mountain landscape near Fossombrone in the Marches in detail but without lapsing into genre-like pedantry. The motionless surface of the River Metauro disappears around a wide bend. In the background woods, hills and mountain peaks are arranged in ascending ranks. The oak in the right forefront of the picture is one of Hackert’s favourite repoussoir motifs. The use of staffage figures is sparing but effective: A man on horseback – possibly the artist himself – converses with a pair of rustic travellers, a peasant and a woman with a small child on her back. They constitute the only living element in the vast stillness of the grandiose landscape. A total of two landscape drawings by Hackert with motifs from the district around Fossombrone are known to exist. The pendant (Nordhoff 690), which is almost identical in size and executed in pen and black ink over graphite, found its way into the collection of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and is now in Weimar (Stiftung Weimarer Klassik, Graphische Sammlung).

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