Mobile menu
Jan Both (Utrecht c. 1618-52)

Landscape with St Philip Baptizing the Eunuch c.1640-49

Oil on canvas | 128.6 x 161.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405544

Your share link is...

  Close

  • Andries and Jan Both were the sons of the Utrecht glass painter Dirck Both (or Boot); they both studied there with Abraham Bloemaert before travelling to Rome by 1638; Andries drowned in Venice in 1642 and soon afterward Jan (c.1618-52) returned to Utrecht. Andries Both’s work is inspired by that of Pieter van Laer; Jan’s work is close to that of Cornelis van Poelenburgh, who sometimes provided figures for his landscapes (the two artists would have known each other in Utrecht). While in Rome Jan Both was acquainted with Claude and Herman van Swanevelt; all three artists worked on a set of large religious and secular landscapes commissioned by Philip IV of Spain in 1640 to decorate his recently built palace, the Buen Retiro, in Madrid (all now in the Prado).

    The subject here comes from the Acts of the Apostles (VIII, 26–39), and tells of St Philip on the road meeting a man of Ethiopia, ‘an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians’, whose chariot he shares while discussing Isaiah. Having established that Jesus is the one foretold by the prophet, Philip stops at some water to baptise the eunuch in His name. This is an ideal subject for a landscape because it concerns a journey; Jan Both plays with this idea by showing the other finely dressed Ethiopians adrift and directionless. The path to the left, which the eunuch will resume, is the ‘true path’, a steep and stony one leading to a hermitage, contrasting with the extensive fertile plain to the right.

    An even more powerful metaphor for spirituality in this landscape is the light which impregnates every part of the scene and streams over the central figures like a river. In his depiction of light, especially in the spectrum in the sky and in the extraordinary translucency of the foliage, Jan Both has clearly been influenced by the example of Claude.

    Signed lower left: 'Jboth'

    The painting appears in Pyne's illustrated 'Royal Residences' of 1819, hanging in the  Blue Velvet Room at Carlton House (RCIN 922184).
    Provenance

    Purchased by Lord Yarmouth ahead of the Lafontaine sale (Christie's, 12 June 1811) on behalf of George IV when Prince of Wales

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    128.6 x 161.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

  • Other number(s)
    Alternative title(s)

    Philip baptizing the Chamberlain of Queen Candace