Valley with Ruins and Figures

Cornelius van Poelenburghc.1627

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery

This painting was formerly attributed to Bartholomeus Breenbergh, a contemporary of Poelenburch who may indeed have been responsible for the foreground figures. However, such figures are not entirely without precedent in Poelenburch's work. More difficult is trying to arrive at a reason for the elaborate costumes of the two figures on the left, in a scene which might otherwise be assumed to be a simple genre painting with shepherds. Their presence suggests there may be a specific narrative intended.

A date of around 1627 has been suggested for this work, making this one of the earliest Italianate landscapes in the Gallery.

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  • Title: Valley with Ruins and Figures
  • Date: c.1627
  • Physical Dimensions: w445 x h345 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Notes: Beresford, 1998, p. 178, writes 'Formerly catalogued as Breenbergh, but attributed to Poelenburch by Chiarini in 1972. Roethlisberger accepts the attribution and suggests a date shortly following Poelenburch's return to Utrecht in 1627, although the fact that DPG338 is on poplar suggests a work painted in Italy. N. Sluijter-Seiffert also accepts the attribution, but suggest that the figures - especially the extravagantly dressed pair in the left foreground - might have been painted by Breenbergh.'
  • Work Nationality: Dutch
  • Support: Panel
  • Provenance: Duc de Valentinois, 1725 (from an inscription on the verso); London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811.
  • Further Information: Since the support is poplar, it seems likely that the picture was painted by Poelenburch in Italy shortly before his return to Utrecht in 1627, as in the North mostly oak was used. It was formerly catalogued as by Breenbergh, but in 1972 Chiarini assigned it to Poelenburch, an attribution that has largely been accepted. It contains his leitmotivs of a gently sloping Italianate landscape and an antique ruin. The elaborately dressed figures in DPG338 would suggest that some narrative was intended. Ian Dejardin suggested that the subject could be Jacob Stealing the Flocks of Laban. The costumes would be appropriate for one of the patriarchs, and the prominent heavily-loaded mule could be Rachel’s, on which she had hidden Laban’s family idols.
  • Artist: van Poelenburgh, Cornelis
  • Acquisition Method: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis (Bequest, 1811)


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