It might be said that with paintings like this one, Annibale Carracci invented the landscape as a subject for Italian baroque painting. Nature here is appreciated first and foremost for herself and not as the backdrop for a story. A mellow sunlight dapples the land and picks out the ripples disturbing the surface of the river. The gold in the treetops suggests a day in early autumn. Brightly clad in red and white, a boatman poles his craft through the shallow water.
In the company of his brother Agostino and his cousin Lodovico Carracci, Annibale made excursions into the country in order to sketch the landscape. From these quick studies made on the spot he worked up his paintings in the studio. The resulting composition is an artful balancing of forms. As the river wends its way through the countryside towards the foreground, the spits of land that chart its course are made to recede and project in an alternating rhythm of triangles. Trees, like signposts, mark the progress of recession into the distance. At the same time the bold strokes of dark trees in the foreground form a dramatic pattern on the surface to snap the spectator's attention back from the hazy blue of the distant horizon.
Sir John Rushout, 6th bt. and 2nd baron Northwick [1770-1859], Northwick Park, near Moreton-in-the-Marsh, originally Worcestshire, now Gloucestershire, and Thirlestane House, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire; (sale, Phillips, Thirlestane House, 26 July-16 August 1859, no. 412, as by Velázquez); Mrs. Garcia, London. William Heathcote, London, by 1883. (sale, Sotheby's, London, 24 June 1931, no. 31, as by Velázquez); Malcolm. (F. Kleinberger & Co, New York and Paris); sold half interest 25 November 1947 to (Durlacher Brothers, New York); purchased 19 May 1948 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1952 to NGA.
- Six Centuries of Landscape, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1952, not in catalogue.
- The Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1986-1987, no. 91, color repro.
- The Pastoral Landscape: The Legacy of Venice, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988-1989, no. 42, fig. 83.
- Esposicion Universal de Sevilla: Mediterranean Landscape [El Paisaje Mediterraneo], Monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas (inside grounds of EXPO'92), Seville, Spain, 1992, repro. page 55 of cat.
- L'Idea del Bello. Viaggio per Roma nel Seicento con Giovan Pietro Bellori, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, 2000, no. 1, repro.
- Annibale Carracci, Museo Civico Archeologico, Bologna; Chiostro del Bramante, Rome, 2006-2007, no. IV.11, repro.
- Nature et Idéal, Le paysage à Rome, 1600-1650, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2011, no. 1, repro.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1945-1951. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1951: 138, no. 59, repro., as Landscape.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 141, as Landscape.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 215, repro., as Landscape.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Later Italian Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Six in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 18, color repro., as Landscape.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 23, as Landscape.
- Buschhausen, Helmut. "Die Landschaften des Domenichino, Ein Beitrag zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der klassizistischen Bildform von Annibale Carracci bis Claude Lorrain und Nicholas Poussin." Ph.D. dissertation, Vienna University, 1966: 119-120.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:264, color repro., as Landscape.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 16, repro., as Landscape.
- Posner, Donald. Annibale Carracci. A Study in the Reform of Italian Painting Around 1590. 2 vols. London, 1971: 1:115-116; 2:23, pl. 50.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XVI-XVIII Century. London, 1973: 72-73, fig. 133.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 56, repro., as Landscape.
- Malafarina, Gianfranco. L'opera completa di Annibale Carracci. Milan, 1976: 97, no. 47, repro.; color pls. 20-21.
- Salerno, Luigi. Landscape Painters of the Seventeenth Century in Rome. 3 vols. Translated by Clovis Whitfield and Catherine Enggass. Rome, 1977: 2:65.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:120, II:pl. 82, as Landscape.
- Whitfield, Clovis. "Early Landscapes by Annibale Carracci." Pantheon 38 (1980): 50-58.
- Chiarini, Marco. "Il paesaggio." In Storia dell'arte italiana. 13 vols. Turin, 1979-1983: 4:13, fig. 20.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 313, no. 410, color repro., as Landscape.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 76, repro.
- Harris, Ann Sutherland. Landscape Painting in Rome 1595-1675. Exh. cat. Richard L. Feigen & Co., New York, 1985, unpaginated.
- Boisclair, Marie-Nicole. Gaspar Dughet. Sa vie et son oeuvre (1635-1675). Paris, 1986: 33.
- Cafritz, Robert C. "Classical Revision of the Pastoral Landscape." In Places of Delight, The Pastoral Landscape. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art and Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1988: 85, color pl. 50.
- Ottani Cavina, Anna. "Annibale Carracci e la lupa del fregio Magnani." In Les Carrache et les décors profanes. Actes du Colloque organisé par l'École française de Rome, 1986. (Collection de l'École française de Rome 106) Rome, 1988: 33, 36-37,fig.12.
- Whitfield, Clovis. "The Landscapes of Agostino Carracci." In Les Carrache et les décors profanes. Actes du Colloque organisé par l'École française de Rome, 1986 (Collection de l'École française de Rome 106). Rome, 1988: 83.
- Stanzani, Anna. "Un committente e tre pittori nella Bologna del 1590." In Andrea Emiliani. Le storie di Romolo e Remo di Ludovico Agostino e Annibale Carracci in Palazzo Magnani a Bologna. Bologna, 1989: 177.
- Lagerlöf, Margaretha Rossholm. Ideal Landscape: Annibale Carracci, Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. New Haven, 1990: 47, fig. 21.
- Gingold, Diane J. and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 89, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 109, repro.
- De Grazia, Diane, and Eric Garberson, with Edgar Peters Bowron, Peter M. Lukehart, and Mitchell Merling. Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 45-49, color repro. 47.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 158, no. 118, color repro.
- Brogi, Alessandro . “Annibale Carracci.” In 100 Paysages: Exposition d’un genre, edited by Michael Jakob and Claire-Lise Schwok. Collection Archigraphy Paysages series. Gollion, CH, 2011: no. 39, color repro.
The original support is a loosely woven, plain-weave fabric of medium weight. The ground is a single red layer. It functions as a warm middle tone under the transparent darker layers and lighter colors thinly scumbled over it, as at the center left where the mass of reeds is indicated by a thin greenish yellow layer over the ground tone, with a sketchy definition of individual stalks. The large forms of the dark trees and earth in the foreground were applied first, followed by the sky and the distant landscape, with details, such as the smaller trees, the reeds, the figures, and the final definition of larger forms painted over the landscape and sky. Extensive pentimenti are visible, primarily in the trees.
The fabric has widely spaced cusping along all four edges. There are scattered losses throughout, with the sky and background exhibiting considerable abrasion and numerous small losses. Losses are also concentrated in and around the central tree. The painting was relined, discolored varnish removed, and the painting restored by Stephen Pichetto in 1948. Discolored varnish was removed and new inpainting was carried out by Teresa Longyear in 1985-1986 to reduce the confusing patterns created where the red ground showed through the abraded greens in the foliage and in the sky and water.