The Cleveland Museum of Art acquired Balaam and the Ass (1583), a landscape drawing by Netherlandish artist Hans Bol.
The drawing was executed in opaque watercolor and gold on parchment mounted onto a thin wood panel. This work was part of a series of biblical stories featuring expansive landscapes and cityscapes, likely set within case furniture or even wainscotting in a Dutch home. Balaam’s story, from the biblical Book of Numbers (22:22-28), is represented in the foreground against a rural setting and hillside city beyond. Throughout the composition, Bol painted vignettes alluding to contemporary rural life, stressing travel, husbandry and the transport of goods, in which all roads lead to the marketplace of the city. The artist’s realistic views of Netherlandish cities, based on direct observation, were a hallmark of his innovative style and appealed to his urban patrons.
Hans Bol’s drawing is a significant addition to the museum’s collection of Northern Renaissance drawings. It will be featured in the upcoming exhibition and catalogue Tales of the City: Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel (opens on 9 October 2022) along with several of Bol’s works from the collection of the Albertina Museum, Vienna, which together reveal him to have been one of the most innovative masters of the era.