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Bridge in an Italian Landscape

This is a perfect example of the Dutch vision of Italy. It shows how carefully these artists observed the spectrum of coloured light which occurs in the clear skies of the Mediterranean: an intense yellow surrounding the setting sun, changing through white to an equally intense blue in the top right hand corner. The transition is imperceptible, the paint surface miraculously smooth, as if a sunset has been sealed in glass. Evening light affects the way we see the earth as well as the sky, right up to the ground in front of our feet. Pynacker observes the way it picks out individual elements - the reeds, the bark and the fringes of the right-hand bushes - and sets them aglow as if on fire. No artist can suggest better than Pynacker the sensation of space, of the air circulating round every branch, and the thickness of the evening atmosphere, with its smell of dust and moisture. Dutch painters saw the Italian landscape as heroic as well as idyllic. This is an ancient Roman bridge, noble even in decay; these shepherds are the descendants of those described by Virgil. Pynacker pays homage with a suitably abased view-point, looking dramatically up through the arch, the figures silhouetted against the sky. An early work displaying the influence of Both. Harwood proposes a date of 1653/4 (in Williamstown/Sarasota 1994–5). A copy was formerly in the Gemaldegalerie, Dresden (Harwood, no. 32a).

Currently on display

Adam Pynacker
Gallery 11
43.8 x 52.7 cm
Oil on panel
Signed indistinctly above lily leaves, lower right: 'A Pijnaker' (AP in monogram)
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number
Adopted by the family and friends of Clifford and Ileana Wallington to mark their Golden Wedding Anniversary, 14 March 1993