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Western art

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Landscape with villagers and laundresses

circa 1720-1749


Alessandro Magnasco


1667 - 1749


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.


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

Accession number


Artist information

Alessandro Magnasco

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history


Sir Herbert Cook, pre Oct 1925-1939, Esher/Richmond/Surrey/England, Acquired by Sir Herbert Cook, 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 marriage to his wife Lady Brenda Cook. 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. Donated to the Art Gallery of NSW through CGP, 13 June 2019.

Referenced in 9 publications


M W Brockwell, Abridged catalogue of the pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey in the collection of Sir Herbert Cook Bart, 1932, p 33, no 554. 'From Esher'.

Giuseppe Delogu, Pittori minori Liguri, Lombardi, Piemontesi del seicento e del settecento, Venice, 1931, p 126. As 'Paesaggio' from Richmond, Coll Cook.

Benno Geiger, Saggio d’un catalogo delle pitture di Alessandro Magnasco 1667-1749: regesti e bibliografia, Venice, 1945?, p 61. As 'Paesaggio'.

Benno Geiger, Magnasco, Bergamo, 1949, p 131, illus pl no 74. As 'Paesaggio con villici e lavandaie'.

Laura Muti and Daniele de Sarno Prignano, Alessandro Magnasco, Ravenna, 1994, p 323, no R389. Figures not by Magnasco?

John Saxby (Editor), Look, 'New loans and gifts', Sydney, Nov 2019-Dec 2019, p 17.

Jill Sykes, Look, '"New" old masters: an enriching gift for the Gallery's collection', Sydney, Nov 2010, pp 18–19: p 19.

Important old master pictures, London, 06 Jul 1984, p 195, no 114, col illus p 194. As 'An extensive wooded river landscape with washerwomen and peasants in the foreground'. The Property of the Trustees of The Doughty House Trust.

The Magnasco Society. Catalogue of a loan exhibition of pictures of the XVII & XVIII centuries, London, 1925, p 7, no 2. As 'Landscape with figures', lent by Sir Herbert Cook, Bart.