European
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attributed to Alessandro Magnasco (Italian, 1667–1749),
Two Monks in a Landscape , n.d.
oil on canvas, 38 ¾ x 28 ¾ in.; 98.43 x 73.03 cm
Museum purchase, 1957.16

Fascinated by the rituals of monastic life, the Baroque painter Magnasco produced a number of compositions showing monks in a landscape. Frequently bizarre and fantastic, his works nonetheless powerfully convey the passion and ecstasy Magnasco associated with cloistered piety. Rendered in his characteristic painterly brushstrokes, the landscape elements are exploited for dramatic effect. A chaos of branches and undergrowth, wind-tossed foliage, and the dramatically illuminated sky mirror the agitated fervor of the two figures. The X-shape formed by two monumental trees echoes the cruciform configuration of the seated monk, doubling the reference to the crucifixion of Christ.

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