Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman
Landscape and Seascape
Circle of Hieronymus Cock
Netherlandish, c. 1510–1570
Village Scene, c. 1560
Pen and black chalk with brown wash
7 3/16 x 11 1/2 in, 18.26 x 29.21 cm (sheet)
Watermark: Shield with initials "B (or P) A" above cartouche with letters "RTA"
(Unidentified. Perhaps related to Briquet 9613, Low Countries 1540s – 1550s; or to Briquet 8067–8072, Low Countries 1560s and 1570s)
Provenance: Acquired from Joseph Fach, Frankfurt am Main, 1967
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2006.11.13
In this exquisitely rendered landscape drawing from the middle of the sixteenth century, the viewer is drawn into a seemingly endless landscape by a sinuous road beginning in the lower left-hand corner. The viewer’s eye follows the road over the bridge and into a village, guided by horsemen and travelers at the left, where we find the village in turn is populated by a number of lively figures engaged in their daily activities, including more horsemen and a horse-drawn cart—presumably laden with goods for market—making its way in the middle ground. In the background the artist has indicated the roofs of a larger town and the dominating presence of a much more substantial Gothic church and its tower.
Landscapes like this were a new phenomenon in the sixteenth century. Only a generation earlier, artists like Joachim Patinir had begun to relish the depiction of landscape, but generally used it as a setting for religious subjects. By the middle of the century, artists like the anonymous draftsman of the Herman sheet had begun to see landscape as a genre worth depicting in its own right, moving away from the contrived conventions of the Patinir "World Landscape" tradition, with its elevated foregrounds and vast panoramas. One of the early proponents of landscape as an independent genre and notably of the new type of localized village scenes was the printmaker and publisher Hieronymous Cock. Between 1559 and 1561 he published two important sets of etchings, largely after drawings by an unknown artist (attributions have included Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Cornelis Cort, Hans Bol, and Joos van Liere), known simply as The Small Landscapes of Brabant and Campine. These prints, presumably executed by the brothers Jan and Lucas van Doetecum, were important for disseminating this newfound interest in the local countryside, directly observed and rendered with minimal artifice.1
The Herman sheet is related to the drawings employed for the production of these print series. Until relatively recently, it was included in a group of twenty-four stylistically similar drawings believed to have influenced the conception of the print series. However, in the mid-1970s Egbert Haverkamp Begemann demonstrated that the Herman sheet and four associated drawings should be removed from the core group.2 Begemann suggested the Herman sheet was closest to a drawing in the Frits Lugt Collection in Paris, though he maintained the two were not necessarily by the same hand. While the exact relationship between the Herman sheet and The Small Landscapes may never be known, it remains a powerful evocation of the Flemish conception of landscape in the middle of the sixteenth century, one that, as the title page to the print series suggests, relished the depiction of "various houses, farms, fields, roads, and such like, arrayed with all sorts of animals."
1. Walter S. Gibson, Pleasant Places: The Rustic Landscape from Breugel to Ruisdael, Berkeley, CA, 2000, xxiii.
2. Egbert Haverkamp Begemann, "Joos van Liere," in Pieter Bruegel und seine Welt (Berlin, 1975), pp. 17–28.