This canvas was described by Ludwig Richter as 'one of the most accomplished things that I have ever made.' Exhibited at the Kunstverein in Dresden, the composition was so popular that the artist reproduced it in two smaller versions and an engraving. Writing to Oberlehrer Fritsche, who had won this prime version in the Kunstverein draw, Richter described the work in the following terms: 'In my painting, the view of the castle is taken from the beautiful woodland path, which leads in half an hour to the charming town of Frascati. Groups of ancient oaks and plane trees, the view towards the distant blue sea, and the empty plains around Rome all make this path unique.'
The present painting is entirely characteristic of Italianate German Romantic painting, which found expression in the religious landscapes of Nazarene artists such as Josef Anton Koch, and in the more naturalist views of the Italian Campagna rendered by artists such as Franz Ludwig Catel, Heinrich Reinhold and Carl Rottman. Richter's works from the mid-1820s to the mid-1830s combine both these influences. Here the tree is clearly derived from carefully observed drawing studies made by the artist en plein air in 1824, but the finished composition -- executed in the artist's studio in Meissen -- is rendered in a classicizing, Claudian idiom, with the motifs of figures and well echoing quite closely a rendition by Koch of the same subject, painted around the same time (fig. 1).
Richter had gained his first exposure to the Romantic spirit through the landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich at the Dresden Academy, which impressed upon him a sense of the monumental in nature. However, his own keenly felt sense of naturalism was more strongly developed by his own experiences as a travelling companion to Count Narishkin, whose journey through France and Germany he recorded in numerous drawings, and by the exhibition at the Academy in 1822 of several Italian landscapes by Catel and Johann Martin von Rohden, which struck Richter with their spontaneity and freshness.
Richter set off for Rome in the summer of 1823. Although as a landscape artist he was not instinctively drawn to the rather formal theories of the Nazarenes, in Koch he found a less dogmatic teacher than the movement's original founders, who subordinated the figural element of Nazarene painting into large, classical landscapes. Richter studied under Koch until May 1825, when he set off on a journey to Southern Italy, before returning in 1826 to Dresden.
The works produced by Richter for several years after his return to Germany were largely classical landscapes, notable for their linearity and strong sense of light, but always softened by a Romantic sensibility honed by extensive studies from nature, and which combine to extraordinarily powerful effect in the present painting.