Landscape with Distant Buildings and a Herdswoman


François Boucher ( French, 1703 - 1770 )

About 1731
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General Description

“Landscape with Distant Buildings and a Herdswoman” has elements that associate it with many of the paintings done before François Boucher went to Italy in 1725: the pastoral theme, the twisting but now less agitated trees, the cattle and sheep, and the Campagnolesque or Watteauesque buildings visible beyond an arched bridge at the upper right. But there are also novel, and even more pronouncedly Italianate, features: the cap and general dress of the piping herdsman and, above all, the city wall and the sun-drenched city itself in the distance to the left. No building is individually identifi¬able, but they are unmistakably ideal; together they convey a feel of the mingled structures of ancient, medieval, and Baroque Rome. These buildings and an Italian pifferaro, or flute player, would have been commonplace to members of a Roman public. They instead denote the picture as one of those—probably, in view of its freshness, one of the very first of those—executed by Boucher after his return to France in 1731. It is not so easy to talk with confidence about the landscapes with figures that Boucher made before going to Italy, since, before he made his name in the mid-1730s, he never signed and dated his pictures, and because no such painting is firmly documented. What is more, Boucher does not seem to have painted any pure landscapes before he went to Italy. What we have instead are two or three pastoral paintings and some landscape details in other pictures that can be said with greater certainty to have been made before Boucher left France for Rome. Adapted from Alastair Laing, "Artist in a Garret: The Young Boucher in Rome," in “French Art of the Eighteenth Century: The Michael L. Rosenberg Lecture Series at the Dallas Museum of Art,” ed. Heather MacDonald (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art and the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, 2016), 95–108.