A group of travellers makes its way across a sunny landscape with mountains rising in the background. Moving from left to right, they herd a small group of livestock – but are they going the right way? The man talking to the woman in blue astride a donkey seems to be confidently pointing out the right direction, but the expression of the brown cow at the painting’s centre seems to say otherwise.
The Dutch artist Nicolaes Berchem (1620-1683) grew up in the Netherlandish city of Haarlem, the son of a painter, and during his long and productive career he frequently collaborated with other artists, often painting the figures into other painters’ landscapes. In the 1650s-60s, when Travelling Peasants was made, Berchem was particularly inspired by Italian landscape painting. This painting’s warm and diffused light, panoramic view, and idealized depiction of country life are all part of this turn to trends in Italy.