In this Arcadian pastoral scene, shepherds are herding their flock across a picturesque stream in spate, watched by a man and a woman in colourful local costume. Three cows are being driven close behind them. Other figures on foot and on horseback follow the same route to a nearby town on the right of the picture. Born in Pitigliano in Tuscany, Zuccarelli spent most of his early working life in Venice, with two long periods of residency in London (1752-1762 and 1765-1771), where he became a founder of the Royal Academy in 1768. His connections with England were fostered in Venice by the patronage of Consul Joseph Smith and his work became much admired by his English patrons, who included George III. Zuccarelli's idealised landscapes, such as this, were very popular in England during this period, when there was considerable nostalgia for peaceful, open countryside unaffected by land enclosure and when the fashion for the Grand Tour was at its height.
Grand Tour and Grand Style The Influence of Travel Improvements in European travel during the 1700s had a wide-ranging impact on British culture. A particularly significant influence was the Grand Tour, which became almost obligatory for young gentlemen. Grand Tourists were led across Europe by tutors to study art, history and politics for two or three years. The Grand Tour focused on Italy, particularly Rome, and often incorporated new archaeological sites such as those at Herculaneum and Pompei, near Naples. Ancient antiquities were heavily trafficked across Europe and continental works of art flooded into Britain. A period of especially active collecting took place between the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 and the rise of Napoleon in the 1790s. As more artists and designers also visited the continent their work became increasingly informed by travel. The serious themes of classical antiquity and European art led to a new departure in painting called the Grand Style. This championed classical, historical or literary subjects, and inspired radical changes in portraiture and landscape. Widespread interest in Greek and Roman remains also fostered fresh interpretations of ancient designs by pioneers of decorative art such as Josiah Wedgwood.
unframed: 59.8cm x 84.5cm
framed: 79.2cm x 103.7cm
Place of creation
© Manchester Art Gallery