We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Landscape with villagers and laundresses

circa 1720-1749


Alessandro Magnasco


1667 – 1749

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Peasants at work in a extensive river landscape
    circa 1720-1749
    Media category
    Materials used
    oil on canvas
    73.0 x 96.5 cm canvas; 93.0 x 116.0 x 1.1 cm frame
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Kenneth Reed 2019. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
    South Building, ground level, Grand Courts
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Alessandro Magnasco

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Magnasco was born in Genoa but moved to Milan around 1681 where he trained with Filippo Abbiati. He began as a painter of eccentric genre scenes and also collaborated with other painters, including the landscapist Antonio Francesco Peruzzini, by adding small figures into their landscapes and architectural views. From the 1720s Magnasco began to create landscape and architectural settings which provided the background for his own figures. Working for the court of Ferdinand de’ Medici in Florence, c1703–09, Magnasco began to develop a novel repertoire of themes based on Dutch ‘low-life’ genre painting with a marked taste for the grotesque. Returning to Milan he was patronised by the local aristocracy and completed a series of canvases illustrating the interior worlds of monasteries and convents, many of which suggest an ambiguous attitude towards the church. The last period of Magnasco’s career, from 1735, was spent in Genoa. Magnasco painted in a highly personal style, notable for its vigorous, fragmented brushwork and its dark, sometimes menacing mood. His unique treatment of uncommon and often disquieting subject matter is suggestive of larger tensions within the society and culture of the day. Magnasco was highly successful during his lifetime but was forgotten during the 19th century. His work was rediscovered in the early years of the 20th century by the German art historian Benno Geiger, who compiled the first catalogue raisonné.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 9 publications

  • Provenance

    Sir Herbert Cook, pre Oct 1925-1939, Esher/Richmond/Surrey/England, acquired by Sir Herbert Cook (1868-1939), Copseham, Esher, by 1925 (see Exhibitions). Transferred to Doughty House, Richmond, between 1920 when Cook inherited and 1932 (see Literature) to hang with the remainder of the Cook collection; by descent to his son Sir Francis Cook, 4th Baronet (1907–78).

    Sir Francis Cook, 1939-1978, Richmond/Surrey/England, by inheritance to his wife Lady Brenda Cook (c1921-2018), Richmond. The painting was on loan to the Manchester Art Gallery from 1964–82.

    Brenda, Lady Cook, 1978-06 Jul 1984, Richmond/Surrey/England, Lady Brenda Cook was Sir Francis Cook, 4th Bt's widow. Sold by the Doughty House Trust, Christie's London, 6 July 1984, lot 114, for ₤12.960.

    The Woollahra Trading Company Ltd, post 06 Jul 1984-30 Mar 2007, London/England, acquired from them by Kenneth Reed, 30 March 2007, for ₤120,000 [AUD289,000 then].

    Kenneth Reed, 30 Mar 2007-13 Jun 2019, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, Kenneth Reed collection, Sydney. Gift to the Art Gallery of NSW, 13 June 2019.