Herman van Swanevelt (Dutch, circa 1600-1665)

A Satyr Family in the Forest, 1639


A Satyr Family in the Forest, 1639

Charcoal and inks on paper 8 in. x 10 3/8 in. (20.3 cm x 26.35 cm)

Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection


  • A member of the second generation of Dutch Italianate artists, Herman van Swanevelt lived in Rome between 1629 and 1641. Like his predecessor Breenbergh, he joined the rowdy company of Northern artists living in the city. The Dutch talent for depicting landscape, a subject spurned by Italian artists more interested in history painting, created a niche market for art- ists such as Swanevelt who, after his years in Rome, moved to Paris and became an early member of the Académie Royale de peinture et de sculpture. He enjoyed the patronage of cardinals and kings and sometimes collaborated with French landscapist Claude Lorrain.
    Swanevelt often included figures and even narratives in his landscapes. In this drawing, Swanevelt explores this talent by placing a family of satyrs in a wooded setting before a distant view of hills. Satyrs, often-violent pursuers of wood nymphs in ancient pastoral literature, are here shown domesticated in an extended family.

    This particular impression of the print belonged to the English portrait painter and collector Thomas Lawrence. Made before the burr—which makes the velvety drypoint lines— wore out, it preserves a rich black in shaded areas. The artist himself inked the plate to achieve the silvery quality that is especially evident in the upper register.

    This view of a walled Tuscan hillside and buildings includes an artist sketching at the base of the tree at lower left. Leading to a church in the severe style, ramped streets border a palace with loggia and a street-side shrine. Like the church of San Miniato al Monte above Florence, the church depicted may be the center of a monastic community, with a dormitory-like building at left and a garden with a pergola at right. The carefully composed scene is framed by two foreground trees bending gracefully in opposite directions.

    This brasero, or plate for carrying water, dates from the early 1500s, when single animals in the central medallion began to be replaced by coats of arms. The shimmering orange-gold of the luster is due to the addition of copper and silver during the third firing. Most lusterware is fired three times: once unglazed to fuse the clay; the second time, also at a high temperature, to adhere the white glaze; and a third time at a lower temperature after the addition of metallic compounds suspended in a glaze. The lustrous effect is achieved in the partial absence of oxygen and at certain temperature ranges, meaning only a fraction of the pieces from any batch are perfect. The town of Manises, where this plate was made, produced some of the finest wares during the period. After the 16th century, lusterware became progressively rarer, surviving as a local handicraft until it was revived in the 19th century.

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