A preparatory red chalk drawing for this work is in the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Histoire Naturelle, Valence, France (see Marguerite Beau, La Collection de Dessins d'Hubert Robert au Musée de Valence, 1968, no. 12, pl. 12a). That drawing is dated '1759' and shows much the same scene as the present work, a figures holding the torch at the lower left and a grouping of two connoisseurs looking at a statue, but without the two figures behind them, and some other small differences.
The Valence drawing has an inscription identifying the scene, probably erroneously, as a view of the Theatre of Marcellus in Rome. Robert painted a number of works using the galleries of the Coliseum and of other ancient Roman theatres as settings for types of painting that very often approach genre. The details in the present work and the drawing at Valence, which clearly shows an excavated pit with ladders, suggest that Robert meant the present work to represent a connoisseur or tourist viewing a recently discovered classical statue, or perhaps visiting a Roman site undergoing continuing excavation (such as Pompeii where serious archaelogical work began a few years earlier in 1748).
The present painting will be included in the catalogue raisonné on the works of Hubert Robert now in preparation by the Wildenstein Institute.