The present work is a typical work of the late 1820s and clearly reveals the influences of Corot's first Italian trip (see next lot) in the earthy palette and in the thick, energetic brushstrokes. Above all, the picture is built up almost geometrically, with the rocks and houses clearly dominating the composition. However, already Corot is hinting at the future direction of his French landscapes. The addition of a human presence, the intimacy of scale, and a clear vanishing point marked by a path are signal motifs in the artist's later works, which are quite different to his renditions of the open Roman campagna.
Corot was already familiar with the Forest of Fontainebleau from trips he had made there before going to Italy. He painted there extensively until 1834, returning there from time to throughout his career, influencing and encouraging the next generation of landscape painters -- such as Théodore Rousseau, Narcisse Diaz de la Peña, Jules Dupré -- who settled in the Fontainebleau village of Barbizon. For Corot's fellow artist François-Louis François, pictures of Fontainebleau reminded him of the good times he had spent there. "We were quite a group there and we were full of high spirits! Diaz, Rousseau, Barye, Decamps, Corot. Ladies too, of course! Ah! what gaiety, my friends, what laughs! Each morning Corot, who had a good voice, would awaken us, greeting the dawn with an open aria or a song" (quoted in exh. cat., Corot, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1996, p. 91).
The present work is indeed in many ways closer to the works of Rousseau than the silvery and idealistic paintings that define much of Corot's later work. Painted with slow precision, and showing a realistic concern towards his subject matter, the picture has an almost ascetic and rugged quality, which is softened not so much by light as by the reference to human activity.
The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Martin Dieterle.