Raphael and Giulio Romano, The Vision of Ezekiel, 1516–1517
Of course Rowland is not the first admirer of this landscape and it is actually mentioned in Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists (1550). 'He also painted a little picture with small figures, which is likewise at Bologna, in the house of Count Vincenzio Ercolano, containing a Christ after the manner of Jove in Heaven, surrounded by the four Evangelists as Ezekiel describes them, one in the form of a man, another as a lion, the third an eagle, and the fourth an ox, with a little landscape below to represent the earth: which work, in its small proportions, is no less rare and beautiful than his others in their greatness.' In an exhibition at the Prado last year, the painting was hung next to a tapestry of the same subject, woven in Flanders and destined for the canopy bed of Pope Leo X. However, the tapestry omits the landscape and so do the painting's preparatory drawings. According to Rowland, 'the landscape seems to have been painted almost as a whimsy, but if so, it is the whimsy of a master. In its perfection this lovingly painted portrait of a place flies in the face of conventional art-historical wisdom, which says that the old masters who managed large workshops entrusted this kind of background detail to assistants and concentrated their own efforts on the faces and hands of the major figures'. And yet, she concludes, 'when it comes down to it, why should a master painter be interested only in foregrounds, or figures?'