A Satyr Family in the Forest, 1639Herman van Swanevelt (Dutch, circa 1600–1665)
A member of the second generation of Dutch Italianate artists, Herman van Swanevelt lived in Rome between 1629 and 1641. Like his predecessor Breenbergh, he joined the rowdy company of Northern artists living in the city. The Dutch talent for depicting landscape, a subject spurned by Italian artists more interested in history painting, created a niche market for artists such as Swanevelt who, after his years in Rome, moved to Paris and became an early member of the Académie Royale de peinture et de sculpture. He enjoyed the patronage of cardinals and kings and sometimes collaborated with French landscapist Claude Lorrain.
Swanevelt often included figures and even narratives in his landscapes. In this drawing, Swanevelt explores this talent by placing a family of satyrs in a wooded setting before a distant view of hills. Satyrs, often-violent pursuers of wood nymphs in ancient pastoral literature, are shown here domesticated in an extended family.