Govaert Flinck - Landscape with an Obelisk, 1638

Govaert Flinck (Cleves, Germany, 1615 - 1660, Amsterdam)

Landscape with an Obelisk, 1638

Oil on oak panel , 54.5 x 71 cm (21 7/16 x 27 15/16 in.)


Long thought to be by Rembrandt, this landscape was recognized in the 1980s as the work of his pupil, Govaert Flinck. The stormy scene with a dramatically lit obelisk in the middle ground is close to Rembrandt’s own landscapes of the 1630s. Just outside Amsterdam were two obelisks that marked territorial boundaries. However, this scene with distant mountains and towering trees looks nothing like Holland; rather the travelers huddled in the foreground shadows suggest that it is some faraway place.

By 1900, Isabella Stewart Gardner’s interest in Dutch painting had waned. She wrote, “I really don’t adore Rembrandt. I only like him.” She already owned a Vermeer and three Rembrandts, and had attempted to buy the celebrated Mill, then attributed to Rembrandt – “the most famous landscape in the world.” Peter Widener bought it in 1911 and it is now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Source: Alan Chong, "Landscape with an Obelisk," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 147.