One of the masters of 18th-century landscape painting in Rome, Jan Frans van Bloemen arrived in Rome in 1688 from Antwerp, where he was born, with a technical and artistic background he had received from his brother Pieter and from Anton Goubau, an Italianate vedutista who introduced him to painting from life. In Rome, where he remained to the end, Jan Frans found the ideal environment where he could develop his closely felt landscapist vein. After only a short time, he took up the heritage of the great classical school of landscape painting already developed by Poussin, Lorrain and Dughet. His own personal contribution was the invention of a particular type of ideal landscape which was better suited to the Arcadian culture of his day.
The Landscape with Tobias and the Angel is a fine example of the artist’s mature work. The view opens with a stretch of landscape with skilful use of chiaroscuro, in which the protagonists of the biblical story are placed. The background contains one of those splendid, luminous horizons which earned the artist his nickname: “Monsù Orizzonte”. The sensation of a peaceful idyll amongst a benign nature, which is conveyed by the painting, does however reveal how the search for monumentality in the Flemish artist does not aim to achieve the “heroic” intensity we find in Poussin’s landscapes, but rather to create a harmonious blend of the various landscape topoi which were a feature of the 18th-century Arcadian world.