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17th century
Material and technique
oil on canvas
180 x 97 cm
Alessandro Zuccari
The central element of the painting is, as the title suggests, a huge tree: probably, from the shape of the leaves, an oak or holly oak. In the foreground, a white horse stands on a dirt track while his rider sits on the ground next to him.  To the right, a huntsman in a red coat takes aim at the birds hiding among the leaves, while on the opposite side of the canvas some peasants are in conversation. The open landscape in the background contains a fortified bridge similar to the ancient Milvian Bridge at the gates of Rome.
The painting is a fine example of Michelangelo Cerquozzi’s mature work. It was executed when the Roman artist had already become famous for his genre scenes of the populace, inspired by the work of Pieter van Laer, known as ‘Il Bamboccio’, and Jan Miel. The large number of paintings by these artists in the main collections in Rome during papal rule is evidence of their popularity throughout the seventeenth century. In this painting Cerquozzi combines the representation of everyday activities with a natural environment in the style of the classical vedute painted by Annibale Carracci and his pupils. The wide landscape visible on the right side of the painting is inspired by their work.
The Great Tree
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