A rural landscape: a piping shepherd and two couples near a river with a village and mountains beyond; a rainbow to left. Engraving by S. à Bolswert after Sir P.P. Rubens.

  • Rubens, Peter Paul, 1577-1640.
[between 1638? and 1659?]
  • Pictures

About this work


The subject of the painting in the Hermitage is described by Adler as follows (left and right have to be reversed for the engraving): "A double rainbow spans a trough-like valley along which a stream runs across the picture from left to right towards the spectator. Beneath the rainbow in the middle distance is a group of farm buildings of partly Southern appearance. The raised ground on which they stand is pierced by two tunnels through which the stream pours under twin arches towards the foreground. On the left, and extending into the foreground, is a grove of tall trees, perhaps the border of a forest. Behind the buildings and to the right of them is a rocky mountain slope extending beyond the picture edge, its upper part hidden by the vapours of a summer storm. Near the foreground, the stream is spanned by a wooden bridge with no parapet; on the far side, three black cattle are advancing towards it from the middle ground. Pasture-land extends to the left of the stream as far as the trees and into the foreground. A path from the bridge runs across this flat area to the lower left corner of the picture, and the bridge and path together form a main diagonal crossing that of the stream. In the middle distance beyond the path is a shepherd among his flock, leaning on a stick. The path leads towards the rootstock of a large leafy tree in the left corner. Seated on the rootstock and leaning back is a flute-player in shepherd’s costume. He is looking to the right, in a line with the main diagonal; his left leg is stretched out in the same direction as the path, while his right leg is bent at the knee and pointing downwards. On the left, in front of the tree, another shepherd is leading a smiling young woman into the picture. These three figures form a conical group around the lower part of the tree. Next, to their right, is a dog of slender build, the upward slope of its back pointing towards the diagonal formed by the path and bridge, while its head, turned towards the flute-player, corresponds to the diagonal of the stream. In the centre, to the right of the dog, a couple are seated on the ground. The man faces the spectator in a relaxed attitude, leaning back and to the left, his right arm supported by a large, round, overturned milk-can, and his cheek resting on the back of his hand. The outline of his head is enlarged by a broad-brimmed hat. He looks dreamily at his companion, who is sitting upright in left profile, her legs and bare feet stretched out to the left. Her extended left arm rests lightly on her left thigh, while her right arm is on her companion’s left knee. She appears lost in thought. The right corner is firmly marked by two sheep standing at right angles to each other. The effect of light in the vaporous air is very striking."--Adler pp. 132-133

The engraving is described by Adler as follows: "The engraving by Schelte a Bolswert (Fig.111) shows most of the landscape features as they appear in the Hermitage painting: the broad bridge without a parapet, the group of buildings in the distance (admittedly a third arch of the culvert, as seen in the engraving, appears only in the Louvre version of the picture, where it was perhaps reworked subsequently); the little chapel on rising ground, the three cattle on the other side of the river instead of the haycart, the shepherd with his sheep in the middle distance, and the little side-path with a fence at the near end of the bridge. (The ravine-like depth of the side-channel in the Hermitage version does not occur in the Louvre version, which has sheep lying in this area; thus it is only in the former, and in the engraving, that we see a tuft of water plants just beyond the outstretched toe of the flute-player). The church, on the other hand, appears in the engraving as it does in the Louvre version; in the Hermitage painting it is clumsier-looking and less detailed. The human and animal figures in the foreground correspond to the Hermitage version. The chief divergences between the engraving and both the Hermitage and Louvre composition are thus the church, the position of the rainbow and the shape, size and number of the wall arches, as to which the engraving differs from both paintings."--Adler, loc. cit.


Antuerpiae [Antwerp] : Gillis Hendricx excudit cum privilegio, [between 1638? and 1659?]

Physical description

1 print : engraving ; platemark 33.5 x 45.5 cm


Expertissimo d.no Francisco vanden Enden medico antuerpiano fratri suo amantissimo Martinus van den Enden D.C.Q. Petrus P. Rubbens pinxit. S. à Bolswert sculpsit

References note

Wolfgang Adler, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, vol. XVIII, Landscapes and hunting scenes; part I: Landscapes, London 1982, nos. 39, 39a, and 40 (all "Pastoral landscape with rainbow"), pp. 131-138 and fig. 111 (engraving)


Wellcome Collection 2491349i

Reproduction note

A composition by Rubens which is known from several sources: a painting in the Hermitage, St Petersburg (Adler no. 39), an oil sketch of unknown whereabouts (Adler no. 39a), and a painting in the collection of the Louvre (Adler no. 40)


Where to find it

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