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Costal scene at Fiumicino. 1765 Pen and black ink, watercolour, over black chalk
- Height: 381 millimetres
- Width: 608 millimetres
Inscription ContentSigned and dated: "H. ROBERTI. D/1765. FIUMICINO"
The drawing must have been made shortly before Robert left Italy in July 1765.
Lit.: P. Stein, in exhib. cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and London, BM, 'French Drawings from Clouet to Seurat', 2005, no. 59 (with previous literature).
Robert arrived in Rome in 1754, aged twenty-one, and would remain there for just over ten years. His precocious talents as a draughtsman and painter were acknowledged by the Marquis de Marigny who granted him special dispensation to attend the Académie de France in Rome despite the fact that he had never studied at the École des Élèves Protégé's nor competed for the Prix de Rome. His talents were also recognized by various French collectors and amateurs back in Paris, as well as those based in Italy, who sought out his work and supported him. In addition to the finished paintings and drawings of architecture, landscape and ruins he produced for patrons, Robert filled sketchbooks with studies that would allow him to continue the production of his picturesque Italianate scenes long after his return to Paris.
From inscriptions on a number of sketchbook pages, Robert appears to have made one or more visits to the coastal town of Fiumicino, directly west of Rome, in the years 1763-5. From these small sketches made on the spot, he worked up a number of larger, more finished sheets for collectors, including this watercolour and its pendant, `Figures Gathered around a Cauldron` also in the BM,(n.1) which date to Robert's last year in Italy. Away from the venerable architecture and antiquities of Rome, Robert was attracted to the picturesque details of the waterfront: the felucca (a small boat used for travel along the Mediterranean coast in Italy), with its triangular lateen sails, and the lantern attached by a pulley to a post, which was used as a beacon, both details he studied in a sketchbook dating probably to 1764 (dismembered in 1989).(n.2) Yet, more than the setting, the focus is on the colourful revellers filling the foreground. A barefoot couple dance to the sound of a lute and a tambourine, while sailors, young women and children look on. Musicians and dancers occur frequently in Robert's paintings,(n.3) recalling the artistic precedent of Claude and Watteau, but also offering to the Enlightenment viewer a poignant counterpoint to the reverie inspired by crumbling ruins or a timeless landscape.
Text by P. Stein, 2005 as cited above.
1 Pen and brown and black ink, with watercolour, over black chalk, 378 x 604 mm (1872,01013.366), inscribed in pen and brown ink H Robert! FF. 1765; ('FF', presumably for fecit Fiumicino).
2 The sketchbook, from the collection of the Marquis de Ganay, was exhibited in Hubert Robert, Louis Moreau, `Exposition du cent-cinquantenaire de leur mort, Galerie Cailleux, Paris, 26 November-20 December 1957, pp.17-19, no.1, and V. Carlson, exhib.cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, `Hubert Robert: Drawings and Watercolors`, 1978, pp.74-5, no.24. The sketchbook was broken up and sold at Sotheby's, Monaco, 1 December 1989, lots 1-68. For the BM watercolour, Robert presumably made use of lot 30, a study of a beacon (also the basis for Robert's etching, `Le Poteau`, 1764, from `Les soirées de Rome`), and lot 40, depicting a felucca docked near a fort.
3 See V. Carlson, op.cit., 1978, pp.76-7, 94, 95, nos 25 and 34, and K. Baetjer, `European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists born before 1865`, New York, 1995, pp.382-3, nos 35.40.2 and 17.190.28.
French Imp XVIIIc
2002 April-June, Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Mus of Art, 'French Drawings from the BM' 2002 July-Sep, Tokyo, NM of Western Art, 'French Drawings from the BM'
2005/6 Nov-Jan, New York, Met Mus of Art, Clouet to Seurat/BM, no. 59
2006 June-Oct, BM, Clouet to Seurat/BM, no. 59
- Topographic representation of: Fiumicino
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Object reference number: PDO4146
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