The Landscape with Milkmaids and Cows, which is dated to after 1616, was long held to be the first autonomous landscape painting in Peter Paul Rubens's oeuvre. It belongs to a group of pictures which originally all had the same dimensions and which hung in Rubens's house in Antwerp. At some later point, extra sections were added to the painting, additions that remained undetected and which obscured the circumstance of its belonging to this group of landscapes. Rubens painted numerous landscapes on his own initiative, free from the constraints imposed by his patrons. They remained in his possession to the end of his life.

This oil sketch shows everyday activities taking place around a small pool, with three cows at the right-hand edge of the picture and two peasant women fetching water. A drawing preserved at the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, evidently a copy of a lost original, shows a topographically identical situation. However, Rubens's oil sketch gives a more idealised impression with additional features. He probably had Italian models in mind, as he possessed a woodcut executed after Titian's Landscape with a Milkmaid.
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Peter Paul Rubens
Landscape with Milkmaids and Cows, 1616
Oil on panel, cradled
height 76 cm, width 107 cm
Inv.-No. GE412
Provenance: brought from Holland to England by Emmerson in 1818; collection Robert Vernon; in 1844 in the auction of the collection Harman von M. Gardner; before 1880 in the collection of Prince Paul Demidoff, San Donato; 1880 in the auction of the Demidoff-Collection, Florence, lot 1117; acquired by Prince Reuss; acquired in 1880 by Prince Johannes II von Liechtenstein
Further works on display
Decius Mus relating his dream, 1616/1617
Decius Mus preparing for Death, 1616/1617
The Death of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Obsequies of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Dismissal of the Lictors, 1616/1617
The Interpretation of the Victim, 1616/1617
The Trophy, 1616/1617
The Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1637
Venus in Front of the Mirror, 1614/1615
Oil sketch of Mars and Rhea Silvia, c. 1616/1617
Mars und Rhea Silvia, c. 1616/1617
The Discovery of the Infant Erichthonius, c. 1616
Satyr and Maid with Fruit Basket, 1615
The Lamentation, c. 1612
Christ Triumphant over Sin and Death, 1615/1622
Double Portrait of Albert and Nikolaus Rubens, c. 1626/1627
Portrait of Jan Vermoelen, 1616
Portrait of Clara Serena Rubens, c. 1616
Henry IV seizes the Opportunity to conclude Piece, 1628
The Victory of Henry IV at Coutras, 1628
The Consecration of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Obsequies of Decius Mus
Three Music-Making Angels, on the reverse side of St Joachim, 1615/1620
St. Catherine in the Clouds, 1620/1621
Four Music-Making Angels, on the reverse side of St Anne, 1615/1620
Apollo in the Chariot of the Sun, 1621/1625
The Conversion of St. Paul, 1601/1602
Perseus and Andromeda
The Virgin adorned with flowers, 1609/1610
Psyche taken up into Olympus, 1621
Allegory of war, 1628
The Hunt of Meleager and Atalanta, 1628 (?)
The Assumption of the Virgin, modello, 1637
Ganymede, 1611/1612
Diana´s Hunt, 1628
St. Francis of Assisi before the Crucified Christ, 1625
Portrait of a Monk (?)
Adoration of the Magi, 1609/1610
The Visitation, 1611/1612
Portrait of Nicolaas Rockox, 1615
Samson and Delilah, c. 1610
Related themes
Rubens in Wien
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