The Colosseum in Rome by Hubert Robert

The Colosseum in Rome by Hubert Robert
The Colosseum in Rome by Hubert Robert
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The French painter Hubert Robert (1733 – 1808) just turned 21 undertook a trip to Italy as a pensioner of theAcademy of France. However, that trip was going to last for more than a decade of stay in the transalpine country. A time when he gained significant prestige as a painter of idealized views and caprices from the ruins ofAncient Imperial Rome. In fact, he came to collaborate with the two great exponents of this pictorial genre:Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and above allGiovanni Paolo Panniniauthor of the famous architectural quirks

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The Colosseum in Rome by Hubert Robert

BothPanniniandRoberttend to combine in their images a dilapidated and monumental past with scenes from his time. And although there is a lot of fantasy in them, we can also get an idea of ​​​​how the great buildings of Antiquity were maintained and used by the Romans of the 18th century.

A good example is this oil on canvas en titled the Colosseum in Rome and which is currently kept in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. By the way, the painting has an uncertain date, between 1780 and 1790, a time when Robert no longer lived in Italy, however a large part of his pictorial career was carried out with this type of painting in France, since there wasaccumulated a huge amount of notes, sketches and ideas during his youth.

As you can see at that time the Flavian Coliseum was totally dilapidated. And it was a place where people lived, some artisans worked and it was even not uncommon for couples to hide there. There was no awareness of the immense historical value of the site. And even Hubert Robert himself, although he admired it and painted it on various occasions, had a very different idea regarding respect for historical heritage. In fact, on one of the pillars of the Colosseum an inscription made by the painter himself is preserved and displayed today, as a typical engraving that says “I was here”.

The truth is that Hubert Robert was widely successful in France with this type of scenes, very appropriate to the tasterococoof his time. Practically since he returned to his country he achieved great prestige and rubbed shoulders with the best artists of the time, especially withFragonard, with whom he also later made a trip to Italy.

However, the artist also excelled in another creative field: garden design. And he worked for both the aristocrats and the monarchy, which with the advent of theFrench Revolutiongot him in jail and a death sentence. Although he escaped almost at the last moment from the guillotine, and for a few years followed his artistic work, until his death in 1808 from a stroke.

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