In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, a group of French neo-classical artists, led by Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, who published an important treatise on perspective (Elements de perspective pratique, 1800), succeeded in having the genre of landscape recognised by the Académie as an art majeur. Bidauld became the first painter to be elected to the Académie purely as a landscape painter.
Born in Carpentras in 1758, Bidauld, like other French landscape painters of his generation, travelled to Rome in 1785, to sketch vues d'après nature of the Italian countryside. After five years in Italy, he returned to Paris where he exhibited at the Salon of 1791 and continued to display his work at exhibitions until 1844. During this period, his fame grew: Empress Josephine, Princess Caroline Murat, King Charles IV of Spain, and later Louis XVIII all commissioned work from him.
The present landscape depicts the Roman campagna and was probably painted around 1790. Oil sketches, often of small size, were rarely signed and dated as they were considered private working aids.
The view of Monte Cavo from Lake Albano by Bidauld in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (In the Light of Italy; Corot and Open air Painting), National Gallery of Art, Washington and elsewhere, 1996-7, p. 142, fig. 30), shows a close relationship to the present picture: the spontaneity, the technique and the colour range are similar, as well as the crystalline atmosphere typical of Bidauld's early work.