(b. 1604, Chamagne, d. 1682, Roma)

Landscape with Merchants

c. 1630
Oil on canvas, 97 x 144 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

This is an early work of the artist, probably from about 1630 before he began the Liber Veritatis.

Claude's earliest surviving pictures have usually been dated to around 1630, although he did not begin to keep accurate records until the mid-1630s. By this time he was already mature, and so it is from the evidence supplied by the undated pictures that his first hesitant steps have to be reconstructed. The fact that he developed so rapidly from his first unpromising topographical scenes to become the virtual inventor of the atmospheric and poetical landscape is evidence of his genius. In the early pictures, considerable reference is made to a wide variety of painters, all of them landscapists. By about 1630 an enormous amount of landscape painting was going on in Rome, soon to be increased by the innovations of Poussin and Dughet. Claude therefore had to contend with many other artists working in mature styles, either influencing or ignoring one another. He drew almost casually from this varied background, now leaning on one, now on another, and then discarding them all, to achieve total self-confidence by the time he was thirty-five.

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