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Hubert Robert (1733-1808)
Hubert Robert (1733-1808)

A fallen classical statue of a female figure

Details
Hubert Robert (1733-1808)
A fallen classical statue of a female figure
numbered '104'
black chalk
254 x 387 mm.

Lot Essay

The attribution has been kindly confirmed by Eunice Williams on the basis of a photograph in a letter dated 19 May 1999.
Eunice Williams dates the drawing to Robert's later years in Rome. She goes on to explain the intellectual context underlying the present composition as illustrating a fashionable theme of the mid 18th Century among travellers on the Grand Tour, that of the decline of the Roman Empire. The conceit is clearly expressed by an antiquity of great beauty, a variation on a statue of Agrippina, lying in a thicket of acanthus leaves. Hubert Robert who had been trained by Panini and had received a classical education at the Jesuit College de Navarre in Paris, was an accomplished Latinist and expressed thoughout his career his love of elegiac subjects. A drawing in the May album depicting a woman mourning before a tomb that bears Robert's name, is a playful variation on the theme of et in Arcadia ego.
Other drawings in black chalk played on similar themes. Folio 94 of the former Ganay sketchbook depicts a Corinthian capital, partly buried amid plants. It recalls a plate from Sir William Chambers' treatise of 1759 that illustrates the origin of the Corinthian capital. Legend has it that a simple basket abandoned in a field had been later found to be entwined with acanthus leaves giving birth to the idea of a new Roman architectural order.
Another occurence of Robert's love of visual puns is a drawing sold in these Rooms, 1 July 1997, lot 154, depicting a old broken armchair abandoned against a wall under which Robert writes the following caption 'questo e la sede vacante di Roma', referring to the difficulty cardinals faced during the election of a new Pope.
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