|Collection||Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery|
|Artist|| Attributed to Grimaldi, Giovanni Francesco (Italian painter, printmaker, and architect,1606-1680)
Previously attributed to Poussin, Nicolas (French painter and draftsman, 1594-1665, active in Italy)
|Date Earliest||probably about 1630|
|Description||The painting depicts an extensive landscape, comprising a river in the foreground, disappearing off to the right, large groups of trees in the centre and on the far left, with openings to a broad vista of a fortified city with aqueduct on the right and a far-off mountain on the left. The landscape and river are populated with numerous figures: in the centre foreground is a group of four men preparing to share lunch, the right-hand figure is holding a pie, which they are all debating. Behind them in the river are four men swimming or engaged in watery pursuits. To the right are three small fishing boats, near to the bank. Three men appear to be loading one of them, while on the right a man poles his vessel into the river. Behind him is a series of waterfalls. In the left middle distance a group of three shepherds, or travellers, may be made out. Behind them a winding road leads off towards the distant town and far-off mountains.|
|Current Accession Number||BLKMG:P444|
|Measurements||123 x 170.5 cm (estimate)|
|Material||oil on canvas|
|Acquisition Details||Given by Robert Edward Hart 1947.|
The painting was originally attributed to Poussin, indeed, the inscription on the frame ‘Nicolas Poussin' still stands. However, it is not in the style of Poussin, or his followers; the composition lacks the serenity and calm, logical, structure characteristic of that school. Overall the painting has an exuberant, fantastical, quality and a general disregard for the spatial logic of landscape.
It is clear from the details that the painter was trained in this style of landscape by the Carracci's; river scenes with fishing boats, small waterfalls, fantastic buildings, the detail of white birds swooping low over the water, are all characteristic of Annibale Carracci's oeuvre. Amongst his students are two well-known landscape painters, Grimaldi and Domenichino. Both are similar in style, due to an over-dependence on their master's teachings.
The attribution to Grimaldi stands up best under closer scrutiny. First of all the general type of image is typical of his oeuvre and the composition is very similar to other paintings by him, such as the Paesaggio con pescatori in the Borghese Gallery, Rome (inv.47); secondly, the figures' poses are entirely within his repertoire, with the graceful, extended, gestures that may be found in numerous variations in his etchings such as the Landscape with three boys by a brook, from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (Marcus Sopher Collection, 1988.1.279). The figure of a boy with his arms outstretched in the centre of this image is very similar to one of the standing figures in the group in the centre-right foreground of the Blackburn painting, as is the figure first on the right of the central group of bathers. The figure third from the right of this group, although seen from behind, is also essentially the same pose, reversed. The central figure of this print relates to two prominent figures in the Blackburn painting. Moreover, the anatomy of these figures is rather soft and undefined, very similar to other works by Grimaldi, and most unlike the hard-edged, muscular style of Domenichino. Thirdly, the style of the foliage is highly typical of Grimaldi, dense, with distinctive and repetitious hatching used to ‘fill-in' large areas of leaves (for example Landscape with fishermen, sold Christie's, 29 May 1959 and Landscape with Venus and Cupid, of about 1651, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1980.6, which has a very similar technique of foliage painting). This is in contrast to the lighter, more natural and less regimented, style of Domenichino. A drawing at Christ Church, Oxford appears to relate to the walled city in the right background of the painting (Drawings by Old Masters at Christ Church, Oxford, James Byam Shaw, Oxford, 1976, cat. no. 1013, Ill. 611). Although these are fantasy cities, and not topographical, the likeness is striking; even if it is not a preparatory study in any real sense, it still reveals a canny artist who knows not to waste a good idea.
In conclusion, it is the body of circumstantial evidence and a mass of details that suggests a firm attribution to Grimaldi.
Robert Edward Hart (1878-1946) of Brooklands, 9 West Park Road, Blackburn, was educated at Rugby and Pembroke College, Cambridge, and joined the family business, Thomas Hart Ltd., rope manufacturers. However, his interest lay elsewhere, in a love of antiquities, books and coins. He secretly amassed a huge collection, often paying in cash to disguise his purchases and recording them in a notebook he kept hidden at work. The extent of his collection was discovered only after his death, by which time he had allowed the family firm to be run down and frittered away his fortune in this pleasant diversion. Industry's loss, however, was the museum's gain; he left them an assortment of 800 books and manuscripts and 8,000 coins.
|Rights Owner||© Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery|