The present painting follows in the classical tradition of plein-air French landscape painting established in Italy by Pierre-Henri Valenciennes (see fig. 1) in the late 18th century, and continued by Corot's teachers, Achille Michallon and Jean-Victor Bertin.
Corot's first trip to Italy, in 1825, lasted three years. He travelled widely throughout the country and made two further extended journeys, the last in 1845. From his early years in Rome, Corot studied the quality of the Mediterranean light on the ruins and earthy landscapes of the campagna. The trip instructed a style marked by atmospheric clarity and bold tonal contrasts that lasted until the 1850s, and a fascination with rendering the effects of light that was Corot's pioneering legacy to the history of art in general and French landscape painting in particular: "Corot's early Italian work marks the outset of his long career, but it also marks the culmination of open-air painting in Italy -- the last great expression of the classical landscape tradition. His contribution to modern landscape painting in France was his willingness to leave the perfection of Italy behind, to move beyond the feeble conventions that passed for naturalism in the studios of his youth, to forge a new image of the French landscape." (Peter Galassi,
The Nineteenth Century: Valenciennes to Corot, 'Claude to Corot:
the Development of Landscape Painting in France', exh. cat, Colnaghi, New York, 1990, p. 246.)
Like many of his contemporaries, and Valenciennes before him, Corot typically executed his small open-air landscapes on paper before laying them down on canvas -- a technique which was both convenient and required no preparation. These works convey all the spontaneity of an artist deftly rendering the transitory effects of light and atmosphere before moving on to his next vantage point.