A Wooded Landscape with a Bacchic Scene

Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes

About 1810

This painting was made at an important time in the history of landscape painting. The artist, Valenciennes, was a leading proponent in the movement to elevate the significance and appreciation of landscape painting among artistic circles and the general public. Valenciennes’s carefully ordered paintings reveal a commitment to the classical landscapes from centuries earlier. This painting is considered classicizing because it is organized with distinctly receding planes: there is a foreground, middle ground, and background, with the scale of the figures diminishing sharply to lead the viewer’s eye to the indistinct hills in the distance. Also, the figures at the right probably depict a scene from the writings of the ancient Roman poet, Virgil. Soon after Valenciennes, landscape painters in nineteenth-century France became less influenced by the past and more concerned with evoking a mood, thought, or impression.