Claude LORRAIN (CLAUDE GELLÉE)
Landscape with Round Tower and Bay
Chalk, pen and brush and greyish brown ink, red chalk
Inv. No. 1266
15 × 21.8 cm
This small drawing leads the eye from the middle ground with the massive round tower to the silhouette of a town in the far distance, and from there to a group of trees in the foreground, allowing it to traverse the entire depth of the hilly coastal landscape effortlessly. Executed with the economical means of pen and brush, it nevertheless possesses the quality of a completed painting. A spectrum of shades, from very dark ones to the light tone of the blank paper, creates a poetic, atmospheric light which suffuses the landscape, giving it a dreamy, timeless quality. At the same time, as indicated by the structuring lines in red chalk, Claude took great care to create a balance between the elements making up the composition.
Claude Lorrain, the painter from Lorraine who came to Rome as an adolescent and stayed there for nearly the remainder of his long life, made excursions into the picturesque environs of the city to sketch from nature – the »school« in which he learned to handle different motifs and light effects. From these studies he developed landscape compositions which resulted in oil paintings exhibiting a highly individual, »classical« expressiveness. From the 1630s onwards, Claude’s landscapes were very popular, and he received numerous commissions from members of the higher echelons of society, among them princes and Church dignitaries.
Landscape with Round Tower and Bay is a compositional study, but it did not serve as the basis for an oil painting. However, a similar version of the scene appears in a painting of 1637 commissioned by the secretary to the French ambassador in Rome. It was probably around this time that the drawing was executed, either while the artist was planning the painting or as a subsequent variation; in either case, it was then preserved as a work of art in its own right. In the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century it found its way into the collection of Johann Friedrich Städel, who had probably become aware of Claude Lorrain – a less well-known figure in Germany at that time – through his international contacts and the English or French art market.
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