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Roman Fountain with Cattle and Figures

The Dutch artist Nicolaes Berchem (1620-83) combines his love of landscape and animals with a touch of classical influence, found in the ancient Roman fountain in this painting. Surrounded by their livestock, rural labourers busy themselves with their day’s work. The woman in the red skirt has put down her milking yoke and milk pail to chat with her companion, as she leans absent-mindedly on the nearby cow. The woman in the blue skirt, milking the goat, kneels away from the viewer, revealing the dirty soles of her shoeless feet. By the fountain, another woman washes linens in the water.

Berchem was a Dutch landscape painter, working primarily in the city of Haarlem, Netherlands. Sunny, pastoral landscapes such as this were characteristic of Berchem’s work in the mid-1640s and many were inspired by his travels to Rome, Italy. Along with the Italianate fountain in this scene, another ancient fragment emerges from the earth in the right foreground.

Currently on display

Nicolaes Berchem
c. 1645–46
Gallery 4
36.8 x 48.4 cm
Oil on panel
Signed, bottom left: 'Berchem.'
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number