Lancelot-Théodore Turpin de Crissé descended from a long aristocratic family line, which had for years worked in the service of the French royal family, and was firmly rooted in the visual arts. Both of Lancelot's parents were gifted artists in their own right, and it was as the son of his father that, in 1806, he first gained admission to the Salon, where the present work was one of four exhibited by the young artist.
After the early death of his father on a journey to America, Turpin de Crissé fell under the patronage of the comte de Choiseul-Gauffier, who introduced his young protegé to the Imperial family. Choiseul-Gauffier was the defining influence on the young artist, providing not only the inspiration for the current work, but also Turpin's taste for architectural views, his precision and sense of composition. As he wrote in his book of 50 engravings Souvenirs du golfe de Naples, published in 1828: 'I owe many debts of thanks, but perhaps everything to the friendship of the comte de Choiseul. After my father, he is the man whom I hold dearest and in the highest respect.'
The genesis of the present work has roots in Choiseul's ambassadorship to Greece in Constantinople. As Caroline Chaine writes: 'On his return to France, and working towards the publication of his book Voyage en Grèce he [Choiseul] "commissioned new research and architectural surveys, and gathered together drawings..." He commissioned two drawings from Turpin...which would appear in the second volume of his Souvenir published in 1809. In 1802 he took Turpin to Switzerland, and it was during this journey that the young artist executed his first studies from nature. He also commissioned several paintings...After A view of Alexandria and the Column of Pompeii (fig. 1), he ordered A view of the Parthenon which reproduces friezes which Choiseul had brought back from Greece. Other commissions followed, and after the count's death, seven paintings were sold in his estate sale, most of them executed after engravings by Louis François Casas.' (exh. cat. Turpin de Crissé, op.cit., 2006, pp. 36-37).
The present work was either commissioned by, or a hommage to, Choiseul. It depicts the Erectheion and the Porch of the Caryatids, part of the temple complex of the Acropolis. In addition to a formal concern with perspective, in its juxtaposition of Greek and Turkish costumes it also reveals an obvious concern with local colour, which is rooted in Choiseul's project of publishing in illustrated form his own experiences of living in Greece, and in other paintings prefigures Orientalism. Turpin de Crissé carried this quite formal style -- which had clearly neo-classical roots -- into paintings which were inspired by his own subsequent trips to Italy. By the early 1820s his style had evolved, however, into a looser, more naturalistic idiom, closer in spirit to the plein airi landscapes of Corot and Bidault, which nevertheless maintained a clear interest in illustrating the daily lives and traditions of the places he depicted.