Travelers on a hilly road near Bomarzo


Bartholomeus BREENBERGH

Deventer 1599/1600 – 1657 Amsterdam

Travelers on a hilly road near Bomarzo

Pen in black and gray ink, brush in gray ink, over black chalk; black ink framing lines.

WATERMARK: none. (R1)
CHAIN LINES: horizontal, 25-26 mm.
INSCRIPTIONS: numbered 28 at upper right (pen in light brown ink, 17th century?); verso, at lower left Strada di Bracciano. (pen in dark brown ink, in the hand of Valerius Röver).
PROVENANCE: Valerius Röver (1686-1739), Delft (L. 2984a-c), posthumous catalogue, c. 1739.

Pieter de Haan (?), sale, Amsterdam, 9 March 1767, lot 692, 694, 768 or 774.

Private collection, Amsterdam, 1965.

Hans van Leeuwen, Amerongen (L. 2799a), his sale, Amsterdam, Christie’s, 24 November 1992, lot 38, acquired at the sale.

LITERATURE: Roethlisberger 1969, under no. 64.
EXHIBITIONS: Cat. Bonn/ Saarbrücken/ Bochum 1968-9, no. 26 .

Cat. Amsterdam 1975-6, no. 22 (illus.).

Cat. Utrecht 1978, no. 26 (illus.).

Cat. Bremen/ Braunschweig/ Stuttgart 1979-80, no. 25.

Cat. Rome 1982.

Robinson, Franklin W. and Peck, Sheldon. Fresh Woods and Pastures New: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Drawings from the Peck Collection. Chapel Hill/ Ithaca/ Worcester. 1999-2001. Published catalogue.


The three drawings by Bartholomeus Breenbergh in this exhibition give an overview of one of the most important Dutch artists in Italy.  Although he spent the last three decades of his life in the Netherlands, Breenbergh’s sojourn in Rome in the 1620s defined his work for the rest of his career.  In his many paintings, prints, and drawings, he helped create the vision of Italy as a kind of Arcadia, a timeless, picturesque mixture of ancient Roman ruins, medieval battlements, and contemporary buildings, peopled with happy peasants and the occasional tourist or traveler, the whole bathed in late afternoon golden sunlight.  This vision was a product of the work of several Dutch artists, including Cornelis van Poelenburgh, Jan Both, and Nicolaes Berchem, and continued in the Netherlands into the 18th and even 19th century;  in fact, Breenbergh’s drawings in particular are close to those of Claude Lorrain and may have influenced his classic views of the Roman countryside.


This drawing is from a series of sketchbook sheets which Marcel Roethlisberger dates to the last year of Breenbergh’s stay in Italy, 1629.  It probably shows the road to Bracciano (the ancient Via Claudia, which later crosses the Via Cassia;  Breenbergh worked for Duke Paolo Giordano II Orsini, whose summer residence was at Bracciano).  Valerius Röver’s inscription, “Strada di Bracciano” on the verso, refers to this hill town north of Rome (and, probably, the area around Bomarzo). The drawing has the feeling of a quick sketch made on the spot;  in 1627  he also recorded the Lake of Bracciano, with the Duke of Bracciano and his party, in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, as well as other views in the area.