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An Architectural Fantasy with Figures

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An Architectural Fantasy with Figures Dated 1638


This large painting shows the airy interior of an imaginary palace or public space that leads out to an elaborate garden in the distance. The scene is dominated by the enormous barrel vault that runs from the foreground to the garden; while the geometric pattern of paving stones helps create the effect of depth and perspective. The figures, dwarfed by the massive columns and vaults, consist of both wealthy people dressed in fashionable Dutch costumes, as well as servants and beggars. Although Houckgeest painted this early in his career, it demonstrates his mastery of chiaroscuro and sophisticated use of shadows. This evokes a real sense of depth and atmosphere and brings the fantastic structure to life.

Glossary Open


Derived from the Italian for "light-dark", describes the effect of light and dark in a work of art, especially when they are in strong contrast. It is a term particularly associated with painting of the 17th century.


The principle of representing depth on a flat surface so that items further away from the eye appear smaller and parallel lines appear to converge.

Chiaroscuro, Perspective


  • Acc. No. NG 46
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 131.10 x 152.00 cm (framed: 159.5 x 181 x 11.2cm)
  • Credit Purchased by the RI 1830; transferred 1859