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A Wide Coastal Landscape with Staffage Figures. Pen and brown ink, grey wash. 19 x 26.5 cm. Circa 1610–15. Watermark: Goose in circle (Woodward 78, Rome, circa 1590).
This landscape study, freely executed with consummate mastery, is one of Bril’s late works. Its elevated vantage point affords a view of a wide valley, on the distant horizon of which an expanse of sea with a number of sailing ships can be seen. Shrubbery and a towering tree in the left foreground form a repoussoir that accentuates the extent of the landscape. Travellers on foot, riders and covered wagons move at a leisurely pace along a path leading to the coastline. Other elements invigorating the composition are a tall tower on the left along with a few farmsteads and a number of small buildings scattered across the horizon.
Compared to Bril’s early drawings that are characterized by a certain horror vacui and a condensed, staggered arrangement of the space, the present work reveals a more spontaneous approach typical of the late work in which the mature Bril demonstrates a greater sense of artistic freedom. The wide-ranging landscape is convincingly laid out with short, accurate pen strokes and a certain economy of expression. The broad grey washes, which are a typical feature of Bril’s late works in Rome, are equally economical and effective. The middle ground of the composition has been left largely bare; this highlights the spatiality of the sweeping valley and creates the impression of bright southern sunlight. Stylistically comparable drawings from this period in the artist’s career are to be found inter alia in Paris, Musée du Louvre (Inv. No. 19807, 19.805, Wood Ruby 73 and 77) and in Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett (Inv. No. 700, Wood Ruby 79).
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