This work is a painted copy after a drawing by Willem van Nieulandt (1584–1635), held at the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen, in Weimar (inv. no. KK 5259).1 Nieulandt is known to have engraved much of his own work and the fact this painting is in reverse of the drawing indicates that it was painted after a print.
The composition grants us a fascinating insight into the inheritance of motifs between masters and pupils. Willem van Nieulandt, before he travelled to Rome in 1601, was a pupil of Jacob Savery (1565–1603) – another Flemish painter who moved to Amsterdam. Jacob taught both his younger brother, Roelant, who was later famously employed at the Court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague, and his nephew Hans Savery the Younger (1589–1654).
The bridge that appears in Nieulandt's drawing and the present work is first found in a drawing by Roelant Savery, albeit of a very different composition, today in the British Museum in London.2 It also recurs in a drawing dated 1617 by Hans Savery, in the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, this time in a design almost identical to Nieulandt's drawing (and the present work).3 The recurrence of the bridge in these different compositions raises the distinct possibility that it may have existed in reality. What is absolutely clear, however, is the exchange of motifs between these artists and their influence upon one another, during a period of approximately 25 years.
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