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Point of view #17

Point of view #17

A spring in the desert

Moses striking the rock at Horeb by Jacopo Bassano

The seventeenth Point of View showcases a “new discovery” from the world’s largest collection of works by the Bassano dynasty of painters, which is in the Picture Gallery of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Moses Striking the Rock by Jacopo da Ponte, called Bassano, was long regarded as the work of one of his followers and thus banished to the depot and hidden from both the general public and experts for five decades. However, the on-going research project analysing the Picture Gallery’s Bassano holdings was able to identify the elegant painting as an important work by Jacopo (c. 1570-1575).

Jacopo’s skilful colour arrangement leads our gaze into the centre of the composition where the miracle has just taken place. Celebrated by seventeenth-century Venetian art critics for his virtuoso sense of colour, the artist chose the rolling countryside of the Alpine foothills north of Venice as the setting for the popular biblical story, with Monte Grappa’s distinctive peak clearly visible in the distance. Note the exquisite brushwork and brilliant handling; the apparently quick and sketchy execution bears witness to Jacopo’s exceptional technical skills and amazing chromatic sensibilities - with only a few brushstrokes he suggests a profile, sketches a face, evokes the body of an animal, revelling in the suggestive play of light and shadows and the faithful rendering of the textures of the different surfaces. A comprehensive scientific examination has revealed that Jacopo planned the composition in advance, defining the spatial arrangement of the scene in an underdrawing sketched onto the canvas in quick brushstrokes.

Colour adds structure to the composition: following the painterly traditions of Venice, Bassano employs brilliant pigments to accent the main protagonists, giving noble lake pigments a central role in der foreground.

Jacopo da Ponte, called Jacopo Bassano, Moses striking the Rock at Horeb, c. 1583/1585, canvas, 82 x 114 cm © KHM-Museumsverband


2 December 2016
to 19 March 2017

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