Object Image

View of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau in the Pyrenees, with Brigands

Clarkson Stanfield made his name as a painter of theatrical scenery. His impressive evocation of scale accentuates the dramatic quality of this painting. As viewers we appear to be spectating from a clandestine vantage point, peeking out over tree stumps. We are positioned just above a band of brigands who have set up camp alongside one of the mountain passes. These rogues lie in wait for the unsuspecting group of travellers, who make their way up the rocky path.

The scene is one of dramatic suspense, offset in the upper half of the painting by the immensity of the natural landscape. The sun breaks over the Pic du Midi in the French Pyrenees, illuminating its snowy slopes and striking, pointed peaks. The great summit reaches over 9000 feet. The painting has a clear divide between the darker lower depths concealing dishonest characters and the bright, mystical mountain tops that adopt more spiritual connotations.

The painting was commissioned by patron Elhanan Bicknell (1788-1861), father-in-law of the artist David Roberts (1796-1864), the latter’s work also hanging in the picture gallery. Stanfield’s large painting, seven by five feet, was designed to be placed over one of Bicknell’s chimney pieces, which aptly illustrates the scale of his home comforts!

Purchased by Thomas Holloway, 1881.

Oil on canvas
213.2 x 152.3cm

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