WALS, Goffredo
(b. ca. 1600, Köln, d. ca. 1639, Calabria)

Pastoral Landscape

c. 1616
Oil on copper, diameter 24,2 cm
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Although once attributed to Breenbergh, this tondo is certainly the work of Goffredo Wals. A native of Cologne, Wals came to Rome via Naples. Once in the Eternal City, he seems to have immediately come into contact with Agostino Tassi; he is recorded in Tassi's workshop by 1616. Some landscapes by the two artists are very similar, especially the rounded hills, silhouetted against each other, whose profiles are interrupted by only the scantiest vegetation. Whether Wals influenced Tassi or was instead indebted to him cannot be precisely assessed, since we know almost nothing about their relative chronologies.

According to the seventeenth-century writer Raffaello Soprani, Wals invented a kind of landscape structured on three planes, exactly like the one in this Pastoral Landscape. His interest in Adam Elsheimer's way of composing a landscape is, however, clear. While the Bolognese painters were concerned about a gradual recession into depth, Elsheimer, and later Wals and Tassi, liked to juxtapose a few planes. Wals worked only on a small scale, often using the circular format typical of mirrors, probably because he intended his art to be a reflection of nature. At least this is how Soprani interpreted it. Only rarely did Wals's pictures include a subject or even classical buildings. His shepherds here are probably contemporary ones, not inhabitants of a remote Arcadia. Like Filippo Napoletano, he is interested in the simple solid volumes of unassuming dwellings, on whose surfaces light and shade are strongly contrasted.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.