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Property from the Collection of J.E. Safra

A great colonnaded building, the roof partly open to the sky, with girls washing clothes at a fountain below a statue of a seated man

A great colonnaded building, the roof partly open to the sky, with girls washing clothes at a fountain below a statue of a seated man
indistinctly signed and dated (lower right, on the base of the statue)
black chalk, pen and black ink, watercolor, on two joined sheets of paper, watermark ‘BLAUW’
30 ½ x 27 in. (77.5 x 69 cm)
François-Nicolas Trou, called Henry (1748-1830), Paris.
Hervouet de la Chardonnière.
Paul Fournier (1888-circa 1961); by inheritance to his wife.
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 13 December 1984, lot 148.
Anonymous sale; Vincent Fraysse, Issoudun, 5 April 1992, lot 1.
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, New York, 28 January 2000, lot 71.
Catalogue des dessins français du XVIIIème siècle de Claude Gillot à Hubert Robert, exhib. cat., Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 1995, p. 180, under no. 69.
Paris, Musée de l’Orangerie, Hubert Robert 1733-1808, 1933, no. 69, ill.
Rome, Villa Medici, Dijon, Palais des États de Bourgogne, Paris, Hôtel de Sully, Piranèse et les Français 1740-1790, 1976, p. 321, under no. 181 (entry by M. Roland Michel).

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Lot Essay

Hubert Robert began exploring the theme of the long colonnaded antique gallery in 1759-1760, while he was still in Rome. On his return to France, this architectural model inspired him to paint numerous views of the Grande Galérie of the Louvre in ruins, animated by figures, antique statues and crumbling blocks of stone, as in this drawing. The partially collapsed coffered barrel vault lets the light in at an angle, while the colonnade opens up against the light in the background.

Another very similar watercolor, dated 1780, is at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille (inv. Pl. 1470; see S. Raux, Catalogue des dessins français du XVIIIe siècle de Claude Gillot à Hubert Robert, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, Paris, 1995, no. 69, ill.). This large composition was preceded by a red chalk drawing dated 1779 in a private collection (Raux, op. cit., p. 180), as well as a study in black chalk of unknown location (ibid., p. 181, fig. 69B). Three other watercolors of a similar subject, although not specifically based on the Grande Galérie du Louvre, are known in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. 59.23.68; see J. Bean, 15th-18th Century French Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1986, no. 267, ill.); the Kunsthalle Karlsruhe (inv. 1979-16; see S.D. Träumen, Französische Zeichnungen aus der Staatlichen Kunsthalle, Berlin, 2018, p. 104, ill.); and one in a private collection, with a sculpture similar to the one in the present drawing (V. Carlson, Hubert Robert, Drawings & Watercolours, exhib. cat., Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1978, no. 49, ill.).

The present watercolor can be considered one of the most important explorations of the theme in Robert’ œuvre, which would culminate more than a decade later in a painting on the same theme exhibited at the Salon of 1796 in the Louvre (inv. R.F. 1975-11; see Hubert Robert (1733-1808). Un Peintre visionnaire, exhib. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre, 2016, no. 144, ill.). Robert played an active part in the transformation of the old Louvre in the years 1780-1800 as a member of the commission in charge of the building’s conversion, contributing in particular his innovative ideas about lighting, as this watercolor so well demonstrates. The work was sold during Hubert Robert's lifetime to François-Nicolas Trou, an architect whom the artist probably met through his work at the Louvre.

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