Oil on wood
Framed: 43.2 x 54.9 x 6.4 cm (17 x 21 5/8 x 2 1/2 in.); Unframed: 30.5 x 42.3 cm (12 x 16 5/8 in.)
Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1967.20
This picture is an example of the so-called world landscape, a term coined by art historians to characterize a type of Northern landscape painting with a vast panorama and a narrative religious subject in the foreground. This type of landscape, popularized by the Flemish painter Joachim Patinir (about 1485-1524), was fashionable throughout the 16th century. Bles placed the group of exotically dressed figures on a piece of land overlooking a great panorama of mountains, coast, and sea. The view of the harbor city is purely imaginative, and the fanciful cliffs and mountain peaks that crowd the distance seem to disappear into a light mist. This manner of creating depth in the landscape, called the atmospheric or aerial perspective, was an invention of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Bles was acclaimed in Italy as the Master of the Owl (il Civetta), after the bird he often put into his works. In this scene, the owl is situated on the rock in the lower-right foreground.
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