Skip to Main Content
Reader Mode

Copy-and-paste citation text:

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Jan Both/An Italianate Evening Landscape/c. 1650,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions, (accessed May 25, 2024).

Export as PDF

Export from an object page includes entry, notes, images, and all menu items except overview and related contents.
Export from an artist page includes image if available, biography, notes, and bibliography.
Note: Exhibition history, provenance, and bibliography are subject to change as new information becomes available.

Version Link
Apr 24, 2014 Version

You may download complete editions of this catalog from the catalog’s home page.


Jan Both was one of the most important Dutch painters of Italianate landscapes. In 1637 or 1638 he joined his older brother Andries in Rome and stayed there until his return to his native city of Utrecht in 1642. While in Rome, Both collaborated on two projects with Claude Lorrain (1604–1682), whose ideal of the classical landscape greatly influenced the younger artist. Both's refined brushwork and attention to detail, however, are characteristics of his Dutch heritage.

An Italianate Evening Landscape is a wonderful example of Both's ability to lure the viewer into a distant world and make that world seem welcoming and familiar. In a gentle mountainous setting reminiscent of the hills of the Roman Campagna, goatherds and cowherds prepare to return to their homes as the sun slowly descends behind the horizon. The men are surrounded by imposing trees whose foliage creates a rich play with the light clouds and the changing hues of the evening sky. Against the golden sunset that saturates this scene, these humble men gain a simple dignity. Everything in this tranquil setting exudes a feeling of well-being. Although the human figures are dwarfed by the majestic trees, man and nature seem to exist in perfect harmony. In this arcadian setting, only the broken trunk in the center of the foreground subtly reminds us of the mutability of the world and its inhabitants.


Jan Both’s imposing Italianate landscape invites the viewer to enter into a world that is at once familiar and exotic, where golden evening light floods over distant hills and waterways, and slender foreground trees gracefully reach beyond the very limits of the canvas.[1] No buildings are found in this extensive, mountainous setting, and there is little human activity beyond the leisurely travels of some peasants and a cowherd along a meandering path that stretches into the distance. Two goatherds have stopped by the wayside and, leaning on their staffs, appear to converse with the familiarity of longtime acquaintances.

This large-scale rendering of a sun-drenched and verdant landscape seemingly free from worldly concerns depicts Italy not as it was in reality but as it existed in the artist’s imagination. Both’s paintings are as much about mood as they are about the specifics of terrain—a quality generated, as Joachim von Sandrart already noted in 1675, from the artist’s ability to evoke the differing light effects at various times of the day.[2]  Like so many of Both’s paintings, this landscape bathed in evening light invites the viewer to settle back and dream.

Both developed this type of painting upon his arrival in Rome in 1637, shortly before he joined the Accademia di San Luca in 1638. In Rome he was reunited with his brother Andries Both (Dutch, 1611/1612 - 1641), who had already moved there in 1633. According to Sandrart, the two artists probably collaborated, with Andries painting the figures in Jan’s landscapes.[3] While in Rome, Jan established friendships with a number of foreign artists who were interested in capturing the Roman Campagna in their works; of particular consequence for the development of Both’s approach to landscape painting were Claude Lorrain (French, 1604/1605 - 1682), Herman van Swanevelt (Dutch, c. 1600 - 1655), and Gaspard Dughet (French, 1615 - 1675). Together they went on expeditions into the Italian countryside, where Both made drawings that would continue to be sources of inspiration for his paintings even after he returned to Utrecht in 1642.[4] Details about the circumstances of Both’s initial encounter with these artists are not known, although he may have been introduced to the only other Dutch artist in this group, Van Swanevelt, by the Utrecht artist Cornelis van Poelenburch (Dutch, 1594/1595 - 1667).[5]

While in Rome, Both participated in an important commission with Claude, Dughet, and Van Swanevelt to paint a series of twenty-two large landscapes for Philip IV’s summer palace in Madrid, the Buen Retiro.[6] He quickly assimilated the stylistic ideals of landscape painting that infused their work, ideals that drew their inspiration not only from the arcadian paintings of Poelenburch, but also from the classicist traditions of Annibale Carracci (Bolognese, 1560 - 1609) and Domenichino (Italian, 1581 - 1641).[7] The paintings made for this commission generally have a prominent repoussoir to one side—usually a tree or group of trees—beyond which one views the distant, light-filled landscape, a compositional schema that Both retained and later perfected in works such as An Italianate Evening Landscape. Nevertheless, Both’s manner of painting differed from that of his colleagues in Rome in its emphasis on the specific details of naturalistic forms, particularly the rhythms and shapes of branches and leaves.[8] Moreover, presumably with his brother’s assistance, he populated his landscapes with contemporary figures, not ones drawn from mythology or shepherds dressed as though they belonged to the Arcadia of classical antiquity. He retained this naturalistic approach to his landscape style and figure type throughout his career.[9]

The exact chronology of the large-scale landscapes that Both created during his latter years in Utrecht cannot be established because only one of these paintings is dated.[10] He probably executed the National Gallery of Art’s imposing evocation of the Italian Campagna around 1650, when he had mastered his craft.[11] The painting’s outstanding qualities have long been admired. The 1804 catalog of the renowned Van Leyden Collection, for example, celebrates the painting as being of “étonnante richesse” (surprising richness). The catalog entry, which stresses the brilliant rendering of the trees and the delicacy of their leaves, concludes with the following assertion: “This first-class and absolutely perfect painting represents without a doubt the masterpiece of its artist, and even of its genre.”[12] This enthusiastic assessment of the artistic qualities and “perfection” of this “masterpiece” was later echoed by the German scholar Gustav Friedrich Waagen, who wrote in 1854: “The warm, but not, as sometimes with him, exaggerated, evening light, the more solid impasto, and the more careful execution, make this one of the most beautiful pictures of the master.”[13] Indeed, as Waagen intimated, the trees in this painting are particularly lively thanks to their rhythmic shapes and the vigorous accents that articulate their foliage and the bark of their trunks and branches.

No commissions related to Both’s large Utrecht-period landscapes are known, but these works probably decorated the houses of upper-class clients, largely in Amsterdam and Utrecht, who had a strong interest in and love for Italy and arcadian ideals.[14] A poem commenting on the visual and psychological appeal of a room filled with works by another Dutch Italianate landscape painter, Adam Pynacker (Dutch, c. 1620 - 1673), captures the impact of such decorative schemes: “The walls of the room are painted with artful parks and green woods, lit by a morning sun which shines down brilliantly from the horizon upon lush vegetation, creating the day, so that he who understands art, stands enraptured, and believes Italy appears before his eyes. . . . Here, worn out by affairs of state, he can unwind again, and enjoy himself in these observations.”[15] One can well imagine a comparable tribute being written about a room containing this masterpiece by Jan Both.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

April 24, 2014


lower left, JB in monogram: JBoth



Pieter Cornelis, baron van Leyden [1717-1788, known during his lifetime as the Heer van Leyden van Vlaardingen], Leiden;[1] by inheritance with the paintings in his collection to his son, Diederik van Leyden [1844-1810/1811], Leiden and Amsterdam;[2] sold, with the rest of his father's painting collection, to a consortium formed by L.B. Coclers, Alexander Joseph Paillet, and A. de Lespinasse de Langeac;[3] (sale, Paillet and Delaroche, Paris, 5-8 November 1804, no. 6);[4] purchased by Paillet for Herard. Alexander Baring [later 1st baron Ashburton, 1774-1848], Bath House, London, by 1821;[5] by inheritance to his son, William Bingham Baring, 2nd baron Ashburton [1799-1864], Bath House, London; by bequest 1864 to his wife, Louisa Caroline, Lady Ashburton [née Mackenzie, 1827-1903], Bath House, London; sold by her executor and son-in-law, William George Spencer Scott Compton, 5th marquess of Northampton [1851-1913], to a consortium of (Thos. Agnew & Sons, Charles Davis, Arthur J. Sully, and Asher Wertheimer, all in London); presumably retained by Wertheimer until (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 18 June 1920, no. 6, as A Woody Landscape); (Permain, London).[6] Charles Hubert Archibald Butler [1901-1978], Shortgrove, Newport, Essex; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 26 June 1964, no. 51);[7] (Alfred Brod Gallery, London), until at least December 1965.[8] (Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox, London), 1966-1967; sold to private collection; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, 7 July 2000, no. 17); purchased by NGA.

Exhibition History

British Institution, London, 1821, no. 55, as Landscape; a View in Italy, with Figures travelling.
25th Exhibition of Old Master Paintings, Alfred Brod Gallery, London, 1964, no. 41.
Nederlandse 17e eeuwse Italianiserende landschapschilders [Dutch 17th Century Italianate Landscape Painters], Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 1965, no. 57, repro., as Landschap met muilezelrijder.
Aelbert Cuyp, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Gallery, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2001-2002, not in catalogue (shown only in Washington for first month of exhibition).

Technical Summary

The support is two pieces of a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric, joined with a horizontal seam, which runs through the lower portion of the landscape. It has been mounted on a seven-member stretcher, but stretcher-bar cracks indicate that an earlier stretcher, possibly the original, had a single, thin, vertical crossbar. The painting has been lined at least twice and the tacking margins have been removed, but visible cusping on all four sides indicates that the painting probably retains its original dimensions.

The support was prepared with a gray ground. Both used thin layers of paint to create the image. The paint appears to be oil, but an aqueous emulsion may have been used to enhance the texture and depth in the foliage, tree trunks, vines, and other highly textured areas. This emulsion has a beaded-up quality and appears to have been applied with a sponge, rather than a brush. There are some pentimenti in the hills of the middle ground on the left side of the painting.

The support fabric has a large tear in the upper right corner and a vertical split that intersects the seam in the lower left quadrant. There is some weave enhancement, which was probably caused by excessive pressure during one of the linings. The paint is in good condition, though some of the pigments appear to have faded. As a result, the moss on the trees in the foreground appears overly bright. The painting was treated in 2000, at which time several layers of discolored varnish were removed. The treatment involved toning the overly bright moss and the pentimenti.


British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. A catalogue of pictures of the Italian, Spanish, Flemish, and Dutch schools: with which the proprietors have favoured the Institution. Exh. cat. British Institution, London, 1821: 16, no. 55.
Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 6(1835):179, no. 23,199-200, no. 78.
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss.. 3 vols. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. London, 1854: 2:111.
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 9(1926):505, no. 306.
Alfred Brod Gallery. 25th Exhibition of Old Master Paintings. London, 1964: no. 41.
Houtzager, Maria Elisabeth, H.J. de Smedt, and Albert Blankert. Nederlandse 17e eeuwse Italianiserende landschapschilders. Exh. cat. Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 1965: 126, no. 57.

Burke, James Donald. "Jan Both: Paintings, drawings, and prints." Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge, 1972: 200-201, no. 31.
Blankert, Albert. Nederlandse zeventiende eeuwse Italianiserende landschapschilders. Revised and enlarged ed. Exh. cat. Centraal Museum, Utrecht. Soest, 1978: 126, no. 57.
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. Facsimile edition of London 1854. London, 2003: 2:111.

Related Content

  • Sort by:
  • Results layout:
Show  results per page

Related Terms

landscape +Italianate
forest path
Arcadian scenes
patron +sovereign
artist +Claude Lorrain + influence of
The image compare list is empty.