In 1598 Pope Clement VIII granted his nephew Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini (1572-1621) a small villa at Frascati near Rome to be transformed into a holiday residence. By 1603, Giacomo della Porta had designed the most grandiose, symmetrical and homogeneous of the villas of Frascati that was to become a prototype of the great Baroque villas of the 17th century. For the richly decorated Water Theatre and Long Cascade, he elaborated then customary villa features and drew the water supply via an aqueduct presented to Cardinal Pietro by Duca Giovanni Angelo Altemps of the Villa Mondragone, who was eventually ruined by the enormous cost. In later years, Pietro was to commission Domenichino to fresco a room adjacent to the Water Theatre with ten scenes from the life of Apollo.
Robert arrived in Italy in 1754 where he was to spend the next eleven years and where, under the influence of Madame de Pompadour's brother, the Marquis de Marigny, he was made a pensionnaire of the French Académie in 1759. Among Robert's acquaintances in Rome were the Abbé de Saint-Non, with whom he travelled to Naples, as well as the collectors Watelet, Aleksandr and Count Stroganov: indeed his success with Russian clients was later such that the Yusupovs, Catherine the Great and her son Grand Duke Paul, were to commission work from him repeatedly. Robert also met Fragonard in Rome and he and Saint-Non drew with him in the gardens of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli. Both artists were to depict the Villa Aldobrandini and in particular the Cascade and Water Theatre (see, for example, Fragonard's Cascade at the Villa Aldobrandini, in red chalk, Christie's, New York, 15 January, 1992, lot 90 (previously attributed to Robert) or Robert's vertical drawing of the Garden at the Villa Aldobrandini, both showing the characteristic columns at the top of the Cascade).
When it was sold in the Pobé sale, this picture was offered with a pendant View of the Park at Marly, of similar dimensions. It is thus likely that this picture and its pendant would have been painted after Robert's return to France, perhaps in the 1780s or early 1790s.
We are grateful to Joseph Baillio for his assistance and confirmation of the attribution, on the basis of photographs. The picture will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné to be published by the Wildenstein Institute.