This painting depicts a landscape with a hunter and a crane, dominated by a classical temple - possibly a representation of the Temple of the Sibyl in Tivoli – a subject depicted extensively by Paul Bril and the other Flemish painters living in Rome at the end of the 16th century. In fact, the Belgian artist’s experiments gave rise to certain types of landscape painting, with classical ruins and hunting scenes, practiced throughout the 17th century. They were a source of inspiration for many painters working in Italy, such as Frederick van Valckenborch, an artist from Antwerp, to whom this canvas has been attributed.
19th-century frame decorated with four corner palmettes
(?) Rome, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, 1607 (Della Pergola 1959, p. 153); Inv. 1693, room XI, nos 100, 128; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, pp. 15, 26; purchased by Italian state, 1902.
The provenance of this work is still unclear. According to Paola Della Pergola (1959, p. 153), it may have formed part of the group of works confiscated by Paul V’s fiscal police from Giuseppe Cesari, called Cavalier d'Arpino. This set of paintings certainly included several landscapes, which it is impossible to identify.
The first certain mention of this work dates to the inventory of 1693, in which it is described as ‘a painting of about four palms of a landscape with someone firing an arquebus at a goose, and other things: no. 593’. The entry attributed the painting to Paul Bril, a name which also appears in the Inventario Fidecommissario of 1833, which, however, uses the phrase ‘in the style of’. In 1893 Venturi (pp. 28, 36) judged this and the three other works believed to be by the Belgian painter (inv. nos 13, 18 and 19) to be ‘weak paintings, which should rather be considered the work of a follower’. His verdict was later shared by both Longhi (1928, p. 76) and Della Pergola (1959, p. 154): taking into account the work’s style, the latter critic spoke of Bril’s workshop and therefore ruled out a complete attribution to him.
In 1980, Gerszi asserted that both this painting and the small Fantastic Landscape (inv. no. 13) were the work of Frederik van Valckenborch, a Belgian artist who was present in Italy beginning from 1590-92, together with his brother Gillis. According to this critic, the painting was in fact executed shortly after, sometime between 1595 and 1596. Francesca Cappelletti expressed the same opinion (2005-6, pp. 20-21): she published the painting in her monograph on Paul Bril, attributing it to Van Valckenborch.