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Paolo Antonio Alboni

(1665–1730, Bologna)

Forest Landscape with a Hunter Nailed to a Tree. Pen and brown ink.              29.5 x 20 cm. “PENA LA VITA CHI MOVE NULLA” inscribed on a tablet at the bottom right.

In 1710 Paolo Antonio Alboni, a landscape painter active in his native Bologna as well as in Rome, Naples and Faenza, went to Vienna, where he stayed for a number of years. Tradition has it that Alboni was brilliant at imitating Flemish and German landscape painters of the time. He is also said to have suffered a stroke in 1722, which meant that he could subsequently only draw with his left hand. 

Three pen-and-ink drawings by Alboni, which closely match the style of the present sheet and depict forest landscapes in upright format both with and without staffage figures, are now in the Albertina in Vienna (inv. no. 13190) and the Kupferstich-Kabinett of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (inv. nos. 545–546). Common to all these drawings is penwork of great subtlety and intricacy, which illustrates the landscapist’s keen interest in the growth of picturesque, often highly ramified trees and his predilection for bizarrely shaped tree stumps. However, none of these stylistically similar works has an idiosyncratic and enigmatic iconography on a par with that of the present sheet. A hunter with a shotgun and a water bottle dangling from his shoulder has been nailed to a tree by his hands and feet and hangs there helplessly with no one in sight to help him out of his predicament. The motto Pena la vita chi muove nulla (Life is misery for the lazy) inscribed on the tablet at the foot of the tree appears to have little to do with the proverb or the hunter. Mounted on an old album sheet which bears the inscription „Paolo Alboni Bolognese“. Drawings by Alboni are exceedingly rare.

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