October Festival evening outside the walls of Rome, 1839
Oil on canvas. 90,9 x 123,0 cm
Inventory number: B258
Works, relating to this work: Marstrand, Young italian woman, oil on paper, Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen, inv.no. 294. Marstrand, Young italian woman dancing, oil on paper, Hirschsprungs Collection, Copenhagen, inv.nr. 293Enlarge photo
In 1836, Eckersberg’s pupil Marstrand was awarded a scholarship that enabled him to travel south through Europe to Italy and Rome. This painting, which preserves the impression of the festivities surrounding the end of the grape harvest, was the main work resulting from this first visit to Italy.And it is easy to understand why Thorvaldsen bought this painting for his collection. Meanwhile, the complicated composition also conceals a greeting to the old sculptor: On the left, where darkness is falling, a couple of secondary figures, a man and a woman, are each carrying a sleeping child home from the festivities, and a pair of owls can be distinguished against the background of the walls of Rome. Marstrand is thus providing a hidden reference to Thorvaldsen’s relief Night, which represents a woman floating across the heavens with her two sleeping children and then the owl. And on the right of the picture there is a woman turning towards a torch, as there also is in Thorvaldsen’s relief Day.
With the long garland of dancers winding from the hostelry on the right-hand side of the picture to the walls of Rome on the left, Marstrand thus effortlessly links together the great contrasts of night and day, darkness and light, city and country.