Jan Brueghel the Elder, whose delicate brushwork earned him the name "Velvet" Brueghel, executed this lovely small-scale work in 1607. His painting focuses on daily life in a small town situated at the confluence of a broad river and a smaller tributary, which passes through the town. Gentle pools of light, as well as changes in the color tonalities of the trees and water—from ochers and browns in the foreground, to greens in the middle range, to blues in the distance—ease the transition into depth.
In the foreground a boatman passes a baby to its father after transporting the family across the river. The mother, other elegant ladies, and a child are already safely ashore, while additional ferryboats filled with travelers, horses, and cattle approach the landing. Imagine you are standing in the space depicted here. Describe the smells and the sounds around you.
Jan Brueghel the Elder, "River Landscape," 1607, oil on copper, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund and Nell and Robert Weidenhammer Fund