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Landscape with Saint Benedict of Nursia
Swanevelt, Herman van
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Swanevelt, Herman van

Woerden (Netherlands), 1603 - Paris (France), 1655

See author's file

Landscape with Saint Benedict of Nursia

1634 - 1639. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

This painting entered the Museum`s holdings as Saint Francis in the Brambles by Jan Both. The scene is correctly classified in the catalogue of 1873. A decade later Valdivieso (1973) identifies it as the landscape listed in the Buen Retiro inventory of 1701 and proposes it be attributed to Herman van Swanevelt, albeit with the possible collaboration of Jan Both in the landscape. Luna (1984), Barghahn (1986) and Steland (forthcoming) back the attribution to Van Swanevelt, which is officially adopted by the Museum in the latest general inventory (1990). Until 1972 it features in the Museum`s inventories and catalogues as the companion piece to Landscape with Carthusian (Saint Bruno)? (P2064) and Landscape with Saint Rosalia of Palermo (P2063).

The scene combines two episodes from the life of Saint Benedict of Nursia during the three years he spent in seclusion in the wild, rocky region of Subiaco, east of Rome: when he hurled himself naked into the brambles by the entrance to his cave in order to overcome a powerful temptation sent by the devil; and when the devil broke the bell with which Romanus, the only person who knew the location of the saint`s retreat, would announce his presence to the saint in order to lower him a basket of bread on a rope from the top of the lofty rock overhanging the cave. The cross embedded in the ground before the saint is a reference to Saint Benedict`s great devotion to the Holy Cross, with which he performed numerous miracles. Luna (1984) points out the possibility that the background buildings may allude to the monastery of Monte Cassino which Saint Benedict founded.

The composition is structured into parallel planes of light and shadow that recede into the background. Between a dense, gloomy mass of trees that occupies the left half of the composition and the intensely lit rock face of the right, the space extends towards the mountain that encloses the horizon, which is bathed in dusk light. The pictorial handling of the leaves of the trees and the bramble bush is characteristic of Van Swanevelt. The cleft trunk, a device repeated in practically all of his landscapes, is used here to indicate the precipice which legend has it surrounded the cave. Steland likens the compositional structure and atmospheric effects of this work to the landscapes of the Galleria Doria Pamphilj painted around 1633-34, which Waddingham (1960) rightly attributed to Van Swanevelt, and to the over-door Landscape with Leto and Peasants of Lykia (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie) mentioned in the 1638 inventory of the possessions of Marquis Vicenzo Giustiniani as a possible original by Monsú Erman.

Although as early as the seventeenth century Sandrart praised Van Swanevelt`s skill at painting figures, it has traditionally been accepted that other painters were involved in executing them, as in principle they are not characteristic of his type. TheX-ray image shows that space for the figures was set aside from the outset. In the early Museum catalogues they are attributed to Pieter van Laer (1599-1642/54). Steland is inclined to think that they were executed by Van Swanevelt, as she finds the figure of the saint comparable with the nude in the drawing Woodland Landscape with Nymphs and Satyrs, signed and dated 1634 (or 1636)? in Rome. It is also worth noting in this connection the similarity between the modelling of the saint`s naked body and that of the Christ in Noli me tangere, one of the landscapes by Van Swanevelt in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj (Text drawn from Posada Kubissa, T.: Pintura holandesa en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo razonado, 2009, pp. 327-328).


Technical data

Inventory number
Swanevelt, Herman van
Landscape with Saint Benedict of Nursia
1634 - 1639
Height: 158 cm; Width: 232 cm
Paisajes para el Palacio del Buen Retiro
Royal Collection (Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid, 1701, [no. 136]; New Royal Palace, Madrid, "estudio de Andrés de la Calleja", 1772, no. 136; Buen Retiro, 1794, no. 647; ¿Royal Palace, Madrid, "pieza de entrada para la habitación de la reina de Etruria que está de blanco", 1814-1818?).

Bibliography +

Valdivieso, Enrique, Pintura Holandesa del siglo XVII en españa, Universidad, Valladolid, 1973, pp. 376.

Inventarios reales: testamentaria del Rey Carlos II : 1701-1, II, Museo del PradoPatronato Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. 287/ nº136.

Espinós, Adela; Orihuela, Mercedes y Royo Villanova, Mercedes, ''El Prado disperso''. Cuadros depositados en Madrid. VII. Museo de América, Boletín del Museo del Prado, III, 1982, pp. 48.

Claudio de Lorena y el ideal clásico de paisaje en el siglo, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General de Bellas, Madrid, 1984, pp. 188, nº66.

Barghahn, Barbara Von, Philip IV and the Golden House of the Buen Retiro in the Tradition of Caesar, Garland PublishingInc., Nueva York, 1986, pp. 192,203.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº1786.

Galera, Esther, Herman van Swanevelt y la pintura de paisaje en la Colección Real española del siglo XVII, Goya: Revista de Arte, 280, 2001, pp. 26.

Capitelli, Giovanna, Los paisajes para el Palacio del Buen Retiro, En: El Palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2005, pp. 254/ lám.80.

Steland, Anne Charlotte., Herman van swanevelt (um 1603-1655). Gemälde und Zeicnungen, Petersberg, 2009.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, Pintura holandesa en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo razonado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 204-206.

Steland, Anne Charlotte, Herman van Swanevelt (um 1603-1655): Gemälde und Zeichnungen, Michael Imhof, Petersberg, 2010, pp. 172-173.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, El paisaje nórdico en el Prado: Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2011, pp. 140,142 164-165 / 51.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, Rubens, Brueghel, Lorrain. A Paisagem Nórdica do Museu do Prado, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga - INCM - Museo Nacional del Prado, Lisboa, 2013, pp. 140,161 n.51.

Other inventories +

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Buen Retiro, 1701-1703. Núm. [136].
[136] Un Pais de Dos Uaras y media de largo y siette quartas de alto con San Benitto desnudo en la Zarza y Con marco dorado y tallado, tasado en Settentta Doblones ... 4.200

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. ¿s. n.?.
Pieza de entrada para la habitación de la Reina de Etruria que esta de blanco [...] {21683} Dos varas y media en cuadro, pais con varias montañas y arboles y un Santo Anacoreta que es San Benito = Benito Manuel

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 1194.
1194.-(1786-R.)-País peñascoso con efecto de sol poniente, y San Benito en las zarzas.-Figuras de P. de Laar.-Compañero de los dos anteriores. / Col. de Carlos II, Buen Retiro / Alto 1,58; ancho 2,32.-L.

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. 136.
Estudio de don Andres de la Calleja Pintor de Cámara de su magd. [...] 136 / =Retiro= Otro [pais] de San Benito en el desierto y un compañero que le subministra la comida desde lo alto con vna cesta del mismo tamaño [tres varas menos quarta de ancho y dos escasas de caida] y autor [Caludio lorenes].

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1786.
J. Both / 1786. Pais con san Francisco, en las zarzas. / Desde un alto peñasco descuelga un ermitaño un cesto con provisiones. En el aire se ve a lucifer amenazando al santo. / Figuras de P. de Laar, vulgo el Bamboche. / Alto 5 pies, 8 pulg; ancho 8 pies, 4 pulg.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1794. Núm. 647.
{3010} 647. Otra [pintura] de Gasparo Pusino, con Sn. Benito Abad en el desierto: de dos varas de alto y dos y tres quartas de ancho marco antiguo ... 3000

Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, 1834. Núm. fol.430.
Seiscientos cuarenta y siete. Pais con S. Benito que recibe una cesta con alimento Id [Both] 6.000.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in white. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed. Stretcher

On metallic tablet. Frame, front, lower bar

M.N.PRADO / 02065
On metallic tablet. Stretcher

Nº 2065 / Nº 2065
Scrap of paper. Stretcher

San Benito en las zarzas nº647
Inscribed. Frame, back, left side bar

Un ojo dibujado
Inscribed. Stretcher

Inscribed. Stretcher

R.M [Sello del Real Museo]
Printmaking. Back, central area

Nº647. Mton. / Sn.Benito en las Zar- / zas.
Inscribed in golden colour. Stretcher

Exhibitions +

Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena. El paisaje nórdico en el Prado
03.12.2013 - 30.03.2014

Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena. El paisaje nórdico en el Prado
Santiago de Compostela
01.12.2011 - 18.03.2012

Dutch Painters at the Prado
03.12.2009 - 11.04.2010

El palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro
06.07.2005 - 30.10.2005

Update date: 28-06-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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