Melville’s copy of Titian’s Landscape, with Herdsmen was engraved in mezzotint by John Linnell for England’s Royal Gallery of Pictures in 1840. Then the original painting was called “a fine specimen of this great Master’s versatility of genius. The horizon and the foliage are painted with powerful effect. The bright green tint of trees, stands out in fine keeping with the brilliant sky. The herdsman and his assistants, anticipating a storm, are hastening their cattle towards some farm-buildings, followed by a goat. This beautiful picture has always been considered one of the finest gems in the Royal Collection” (Linnell 10). The painting was called A Stormy Landscape with a Shepherd Boy and Cattle when Roy Bishop described it as part of the Royal Collection in 1937, emphasizing that “these wild peaks are the mountains of Cadore, some fifty miles north of Venice” (Bishop 147-48). Harold Wethey in 1969 treats this Landscape with Shepherd and Flocks as a copy by a sixteenth-century follower of Titian; he sees its “landscape” as “closely based on Titian” but the actual painting as “technically inferior to Titian’s own work” (3: 213, cat. no. X-19).
Melville himself would have had no cause to consider the painting anything but an authentic Titian. Titian had long been admired for the landscape background in many of his large-scale paintings, but Landscape, with Herdsmen reproduces a rare Titian painting in which the landscape is itself of primary interest. The herdsmen in Melville’s engraving are descending a steep swerve to the left before the land rises to a small town and church spire in the middle ground before stretching out toward distant mountains next to slanting rain from a stormy sky. The clearing in the sky that Titian left directly above the line of mountains allows us to see the distinctive dolomite formations that Titian saw during his childhood in the Cadore region of northern Italy. John Linnell, who engraved Melville’s copy of this painting, had also painted the portrait of Samuel Rogers now in the Tate Britain Museum (fig. 9 in the introduction to this section).
Melville’s engraving of Titian’s Landscape, with Herdsman had a fine companion in Scene in the Cadore Country, one of three artworks by Titian that were reproduced in The Renaissance of Art in Italy (fig. 1). Based on a drawing in the Pitti Palace in Florence, this engraving helped to illustrate the section of Lucy Baxter’s text that provided much more information about Titian’s native region of Cadore than Melville had access to from Vasari, Lanzi, or Valery. Here Melville would have read that “Cadore is the ideal of an artist’s birthplace, whose wild and picturesque beauty could not but foster imagination in such a temperament, ghost-like dolomites rising around the peaceful valley in all their grandeur and fantastic shapes like blocks of marble in Nature’s sculpturing hands. . . . Sometimes these giant crags are grey, sometimes dark, now they glow with golden light, then blush crimson in the evening rays” (281).