Jakob Philipp Hackert, "Harvesting at San Leucio" - 1782

The artwork “Harvesting at San Leucio” can be seen in: Study of the King

Category Painting
Artist Jacob Philippe Hackert (1737-1807)
Year 1782
Origin Campania
Material oil on canvas
Technique painting
Style neoclassical landscape art
Dimensions (WxDxH) 46.5x69.5cm

Description of the artwork "Harvesting at San Leucio"

  • In the background of the “Harvesting at San Leucio” you can see Vaccheria and the landscape around San Leucio.
  • On the left we see peasants reaping and picking up the grain, which will be placed under a tree (in the middle).
  • On the right there is a group scene: under a “field tent” there are people sitting and standing, others resting or conversing, some playing at the swing, taking their two companions from hands and feet and making them swing.On the right side we notice barrels and bags, presumably full of the food for the day.
  • In the left corner of the painting, we see two men, one with a cornamus.

The style of this picture is no longer the initial one of Hackert, which was partially lacking in expressiveness. This painting reveals the most intense style of full maturity, achieved in the last few years of Neapolitan living: the landscape, while maintaining the character of faithful description, the great speed and mastery of technique, is now idealized. From “photography” to “documentary”.

Detail of the artwork

The artist: Jacob Philippe Hackert (1737-1807)

Author: Stefano Zuffi (updated)

He was born in Prenzlau, Brandenburg, on September 15, 1737.

The work of this lucid interpreter of the objective enlightenment spirit and, at the same time, faithful follower of the ideal landscape tradition, can be set to the end of an artistic era in which landscape painting was subject to precise and rigorous structural and compositional principles. Hackert imposed the formula of classicist analytical-descriptive landscaping art, becoming one of the initiators of the Parthenopean topographical vedutism. Recalling the style of the Canaletto and of Bellotto, the subject is as crystallized as like in a photograph.

After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, he got his first success with German and Swedish aristocrats thanks to his landscapes, where documentary and topographical accuracy combined with the patterns of the classical landscape derived from Claude Lorrain’s 18th century models and italianate styled dutch.

From 1762 to 1768 he was in Paris, where he knew the landscapist Claude-Joseph Vernet and where he did many trips in Normandy drawing from life. In 1768, with his brother Johann Gottlieb, he arrived in Italy, where he was attracted more by the towns and the surroundings, than by the ancient ruins and the urban scenery of Rome, depicted by him first in sepia drawings and after in oil paintings.

Within a few years, thanks to its objective and crystalline views and the support of the archaeologist Johann Friedrich Reiffenstein, it becomes one of the most sought after artists by noble foreign travelers. Cesme’s Naval Battle (1771), designed by Catherine II of Russia, puts the foundations of the artist’s international fame and convinces him to settle permanently in Italy. In 1770 he made his first trip to Naples, while in 1777 he visited Sicily in the company of Charles Gore and Richard Payne Knight.

In 1786 he was appointed court painter of Ferdinand IV of Bourbon in Naples. In large size canvases for royal palaces, scrupulously recorded hunting scenes, military maneuvers, ceremonies and society events, as well as places of the kingdom including the ports documented in the famous series performed between 1787 and 1792.

Goethe and Hackert met for the first time in Naples in 1787, when the writer went to find Hackert at the Francatila with the painter Tischbein. Goethe took drawing lessons from Hackert in 1787. They visited together Naples and Tivoli, and attended Hamilton home. Hackert proposes to become his pupil for a whole year, but after this period they never met again and wrote just letters. The writer greatly admired Hackert for his ability to portray nature and to immediately shape the design.

The arrival of the French troops in Naples in 1799, and the abdication of the Bourbon induced the artist to flee to Tuscany, where he died on April 28, 1807.

In 1811, Goethe published his biography, based on autobiographical notes.

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