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Landscape with the Figure of a Man

Manner of Swanevelt Herman van

(Woerden c. 1600 - Paris c.1656)

The first certain mention of this painting in connection with the Borghese Collection dates to 1790. Critics have attributed it to the Roman period of Herman van Swanevelt, the Dutch painter who was in contact with Claude Lorrain and Pieter van Laer, with whom he contributed to spreading the genre of classical Italian landscapes. It depicts a man seated on an embankment by a bridge, immersed in a wild, desolate landscape.

Object details

1635 circa
Oil on panel
cm 11 x 12

19th-century frame, 30 x 26 x 4.5 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, room VII, no. 99); Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 31; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1950 Alvaro Esposti


This small work can be certainly identified with the ‘small landscape in the Flemish style’ from the 1790 inventory, as the same description also appears on the frame of the painting. While the Inventario Fidecommissario did not provide a specific attribution, Adolfo Venturi (1893) ascribed it to Herman van Swanevelt. His opinion was accepted by Paola della Pergola, who in 1959 published the work as in the ‘manner of Swanevelt’; Kristina Herrmann Fiore maintained the attribution in 2006.

The panel depicts a figure seated on a mound of earth next to a bridge; he is immersed in a gloomy, solitary landscape. The subject seems to allude to the character of the painter himself, whom colleagues called ‘the hermit’ because he would wander the Roman countryside alone in search of agreeable settings and ruins to paint.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 458. 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 222. 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 224. 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 189, n. 283. 
  • 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. 169.