Under the influence of Giovanni Paolo Panini, Robert developed his own interpretation of the Roman architectural capriccio and for his mastery of the genre was famously dubbed by Denis Diderot as 'Robert des ruines'. In this large watercolor, the artist chose an oval format in order to enhance the monumentality of the tholos, the round temple surrounded by a colonnade. It is a recurrent motif in Robert’s work, likely modeled upon the famous rotunda known as Temple of Vesta at Tivoli, which fascinated other French artists working in Rome at the same time. In his Gypsies in the Temple of Vesta of 1760, for instance, Fragonard adopted a similar oval format and the same architectural setting, with figures gathered in the temple around a fire (Private collection, Paris; see J. H. Fragonard e H. Robert a Roma, exhib. cat., Roma, Villa Medici, 1991, cat. 112a, ill.). While Fragonard was drawn to the representation of human life and anecdotal narratives, Robert approached the scene more from an archaeological point of view, exemplified by his attention to the architectural details of the tholos: the coffers on the vault, the mural decorations and the Corinthian capitals.
The detailed observation of Roman architecture seen in this work, signed and dated 1759, is comparable to Hubert's ovals Roman Capriccio with the Dioscuri and Bernini’s colonnade in the Horvitz Collection and Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 1975.1.693; both illustrated in M. Morgan Grasselli, Hubert Robert, exhib. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre, and Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 2016, p. 14, fig. 2 and no. 22).