Thursday, 5 April 2018

Stefano della Bella’s etching, “Travellers in a landscape”, 1656


Stefano della Bella (1610–1664)

“Travellers in a landscape” (Rijksmuseum title), 1656, from the series of six plates, “Landscapes and Harbours”.

Etching on laid paper trimmed with small margins and remargined with a support sheet.
Size: (remargined support sheet) 32.5 x 29.9 cm; (sheet) 14.4 x 14.7 cm; (plate) 13.7 x 14.2 cm; (diameter of circular image borderline) 13.4 cm
Lettered on the plate at lower left edge: "Stef. Della Bella fecit. 1656."

De Vesme/Massar 1971 743.II (A.de Vesme 1971, revised by Phyllis D.Massar, “Stefano della Bella”, New York, p. 113, cat. no. 743); Jombert (Della Bella) 188-1 (Charles Antoine Jombert 1772, “Essai d'un catalogue de l'oeuvre d'Etienne de la Belle, peintre et graveur florentin”, Paris, p. 183, cat. no. 188–1)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Landscape; a woman riding a horse and a man carrying a bundle, at centre, travelling towards background, with a rustic house behind to right in a plain and a large chestnut tree at front left; a round composition.” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1499102&partId=1&searchText=della+bella&page=1)

The Rijksmuseum offers the following description of this print:
“A woman on horseback and a running man with a knapsack in a landscape. Front left an old chestnut tree. In the background on the right a house.”

Condition: crisp, well-inked and well-printed impression in very good condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, abrasions, but with a few minor marks/signs of handling) with small margins (approx. 3mm) and remargined with an archival support sheet of millennium quality washi paper.

I am selling this round formatted image revealing Della Bella’s early leaning towards the Rocco style for AU$146 in total (currently US$112.28/EUR91.57/GBP80.26 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this light-filled composition with travellers, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold


Sometimes what may seem like a straightforward simple landscape composition has a layering of meanings that makes it special. From my standpoint this is certainly the case with this socially inoffensive and almost decoratively lovely image.

When I look at these travellers portrayed half-concealed from the viewer as they descend from the foreground ridge towards what the British Museum describes as “rustic house” in the middle distance, I am reminded that images of such innocent travellers may have held a curiously interesting meaning for Della Bella. What I am referring to here is the artist’s fellow printmaker, Salvator Rosa, who—perhaps more in myth than in fact—is scandalously rumoured to have engaged with bandits (banditti) preying upon such travellers. Whether or not such ideas were even in Della Bella’s mind at the time of executing this image, I really don’t know. Nevertheless, his choice to feature travellers without doubt carries with it the many issues underpinning his contemporaries’ choice to also include travellers in their landscapes, such as Herman van Swanevelt and Jan Both.

Beyond such hidden meanings, looking at the composition itself, I sense an artist torn between the desire to express the dynamic energy of twisting natural forms and a passion for flat tonal patterns. In terms of Della Bella’s interest in expressing dynamic energy, note the strong flow of modelling marks giving form to the foreground tree trunk. In contrast with the strong directional rhythms of these marks, Della Bella has juxtaposed the contour strokes describing the trunk and branches with relatively flat tonal patterning of foliage textures.

Interestingly, at the time of executing this print the artist had begun to explore ways to replicate in his etchings the broad planes found in his watercolour washes. Although Della Bella did not discover aquatint—that was a technique introduced by Jan van de Velde IV around 1650—Della Bella experimented with a cruder technique of laying dilute washes of acid to flat bite some of his later prints with delicate tonal areas.







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