Arnold Böcklin studied in Düsseldorf under Johann Wilhelm Schirmer, the founding father of the Düsseldorf school of landscape painting and later the first director of the Karlsruhe academy. At the age of twenty-four, Böcklin set out for Rome, where he remained until 1856. This painting of the Alban Hills, located some twenty kilometres southeast of Rome, was commissioned by Felix Sarasin, the mayor of Böcklin’s home town of Basel, to support the young artist. An early work, the painting shows no trace of the mythological subjects that were to define the artist’s later oeuvre. On the contrary, although the landscape follows academic principles of composition, it seems natural, even authentic. The picture is dominated by a group of trees positioned just to the right of the central axis. A man is seated by a fire in their shadow. The appeal of the landscape lies in its handling of the interplay of light and shadow and the contrast between barren and verdant passages. The painting conveys a sense of calm and Arcadian life.