Rendered from a birds-eye perspective, this fascinating Landscape with the Conversion of Saul unfolds over three registers. From the dark and crowded foreground, to the crisp detailed rendering of a cityscape and its environs, to the atmospheric mist of the distant mountains, the audience is invited to explore every last detail of this intriguing Netherlandish landscape. A small owl—a motif that appears in many Netherlandish landscapes of the sixteenth century—is perched on a branch in the lower right corner of this composition. Behind the rearing horses and the soldiers that surround the fallen Saul who gazes up in awe at a vision of Christ, a seemingly infinite number of battling forces snake along a winding terrain and march under various small houses perched precariously atop a craggy precipice. This elevated and darkened outcropping of land overlooks the varied architecture of a city resembling that of Jerusalem, which rises from within a deep valley. Nearby, a lush forest that rolls gently up to a tranquil harbor and a rocky peak, and beyond the distant blue-toned terrain fades softly towards the horizon.
The cityscape of Jerusalem in the present panel is based on a woodcut depicting a map of the Holy Land in Bernard von Breydenbach’s Peregrinationes in Terram Sanctam first published 1486. This illustrated travel book proved immensely popular and was reprinted over thirteen times in numerous languages across Europe until around 1520.1 Furthermore, the dynamic grouping of figures in the foreground have roots in a series of prints by Enea Vico after Francesco Salviati, which circulated throughout the Netherlands and were freely adapted by artists, including artists from the second half of the sixteenth century such as Frans Floris and Maerten de Vos.1
1. A woodcut of this map is preserved in the collection of the British Museum, London (inv. no. 1904,0206.2.8)
2. See D. Landau and P. Parshall, The Renaissance Print: 1470-1550, New Haven 1994, p. 293, reproduced fig. 311.
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