Herman van Swanevelt (1603 - 1655)

Landscape with the Ruins of the Grotto of Egeria Sold

Pen and brown ink and grey wash, laid down and mounted onto a large album page, with a grey wash border.
Inscribed Fontaine de la Nymphe Egerie at the upper left and numbered 49 on the album sheet.
Further inscribed Bartolomeus on the verso.
138 x 185 mm. (5 3/8 x 7 1/4 in.)

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The attribution of this drawing to Herman van Swanevelt was first made by Martin Royalton-Kisch and has since been confirmed by Anne Charlotte Steland. The drawing depicts a view of the so-called grotto of the nymph Egeria (in actual fact part of the estate of the suburban villa of Herodus Atticus), near the Via Appia to the southeast of Rome. The natural grotto was developed into a man-made arched interior, with a statue of Egeria set in a niche in the apse, and the walls faced with mosaics and marble. A later, more finished drawing of the grotto of Egeria by Swanevelt is part of the large group of drawings by the artist in the collection of the Uffizi in Florence, and is, in turn, a preparatory study for an etching of The Grotto of the Nymph Egeria, one of an undated series of twelve landscapes etched by Swanevelt.

The present sheet represents an early study for the composition developed in the Uffizi drawing and the final print. Swanevelt’s practice seems to have been to produce preliminary studies of a landscape in wash, drawn from nature and capturing the atmospheric qualities of a particular scene. These would then be adapted to the size and format of a print, with the inclusion of figures and drawn in a more linear manner, in a second drawing that would serve as a modello for the etching itself.

Drawings such as these, in the words of one scholar, are ‘the record of Swanevelt’s response to the stimulus of the Roman Campagna, expressed in the classical vocabulary through which artists in Rome were defining landscape…his drawings are highly controlled and methodical products, and yet they do have that freshness that the paintings sometimes lack.’

Herman van SWANEVELT

Landscape with the Ruins of the Grotto of Egeria

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