This beautiful image was painted by the Belgian artist Charles Lefebvre (1846-1894), when he was in Florence in 1861. It depicts a flock of camels lounging in a sunny landscape dotted with stone pine trees, most likely somewhere in North Africa.
Four camels relax on a sandy bank next to a pool of water, three lying down and one standing. The rest of the flock can be seen grazing in the distance on the right. Beyond them, two farmers carry hay and one leads a camel by a harness. In the far distance, a group of either cattle or sheep are pictured grazing. The scene is very peaceful, and shows nature unspoilt by human intervention.
The painting moves from dark to light, with the left foreground cast in shadow and the right bathed in warm sunlight. This tonal transition helps to direct our eye out to the horizon, where the mountains are just visible. The trees, which gradually diminish in scale, similarly serve to guide the viewer’s eye across the scene and into the distance. The landscape stretches out before us, vast and beautiful.
While little is known about Charles Lefebvre’s life, it is clear that he was an exceptionally skilled painter. This image has been beautifully rendered using a muted, earthy colour palette. Every detail of the scene has been picked out using short, confident strokes of oil paint.
The work is signed to the lower left ‘Ch. Lefevre, Florence 1861’. It is displayed in a giltwood frame, which is mounted with a plaque titling the work as “Camels Grazing”.