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Fantastic landscape

Anonimo tedesco (?)

First documented as forming part of the collection of the Casino di Porta Pinciana in 1833, the painting was displayed as the pendant of another canvas still in the Galleria’s possession (inv. no. 134). It shows a fantastic landscape whose centre is occupied by a large tree which divides the scene in two parts: on the left, a rugged high ground in the distance cuts through a deep valley, while on the right a rocky promontory forms the base of a turreted town.

Several tiny figures populate the scene, who are completely absorbed by their natural surroundings.

Object details

Fine XVII - inizi XVIII secolo
oil on canvas
cm 32 x 55

18th-century frame decorated with perforated acanthus, 43 x 65 x 4.5 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1833 (Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 36; Della Pergola 1959); purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1953 Mauro Manca


The provenance of this painting is still unknown. It was first documented in the Inventario Fidecommissario of 1833, where, together with its pendant (inv. no. 134), it is listed as a ‘landscape’ by Pier Francesco Mola. Although this attribution was upheld by Giovanni Piancastelli (1891) and Adolfo Venturi (1893), Roberto Longhi (1928) rejected it, rather ascribing the pair of paintings to a late 18th-century foreigner, a ‘German who in all likelihood was active in Rome’. While his proposal was accepted by both Paola della Pergola (1959) and Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2006), it has never been thoroughly examined.

Depicting a fantastic landscape, the painting was certainly executed in Rome, where the artist was able to become familiar with the production of Mola, to whom the canvas has been understandably attributed. The work indeed reveals several stylistic traits evident in the compositions of the artist from Ticino, beginning with the application of fluid, vigorous colour and the use of a palette dominated by saturated and quite dark tints. Yet in contrast to Mola, the artist of the Landscape in the Borghese Collection uses light ingenuously, such that it only touches nature without penetrating it, with the result that it fails to achieve that pathos which Mola aimed for through an intelligent use of flashes and opaque lighting.  

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 118;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, pp. 98, 100;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 190;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 172, n. 252;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 49.