British Museum collections, £12.99
Height: 407.000 mm
Width: 398.000 mm
Prints and Drawings
Roelandt Savery, Alpine Landscape, a chalk drawing
Austria, around AD 1606-7
This is one of a group of large drawings in red and black chalk, of mountainous scenery. Savery (1576-1639) is thought to have made them during a journey to the Austrian Tyrol during the years 1606-07. The journey was undertaken on the commission of the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II (1552-1612). An early critic, Joachim von Sandrart (1668-91), said that Savery was sent by Rudolf in order to draw 'rare wonders of nature' to provide material for his paintings.
The overall impression is of the vast scale and overwhelming power of nature. The human figures on the track in the foreground are tiny compared with the towering pine trees, the craggy rocks and the mountains filling the background. Even the buildings seem insignificant, cluttered below the craggy rocks rising behind and above them. Though Savery wrote on some of his drawings that they were naer het leven ('after the life'), it is clear that in this case, Savery combined naturalistic observation with an imaginative reconstruction.
Savery was born in Flanders and moved to The Hague, Holland in around 1586. By 1603 he was in Prague working for the court of Rudolf II. He travelled extensively, drawing figures and landscapes to use in his paintings. He returned to Amsterdam in 1613 and continued to paint until his death. His importance lies in the development of the independent still-life, animal painting, cityscapes and naturalistic landscapes. His work was widely admired and shows the influence of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
T.D. Kaufmann, Court, cloister and city: the (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1995)
J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)
T.D. Kaufmann, Drawings from the Holy Roman E (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1983)