Hubert Robert (Paris 1733 – 1808), Villa Farnese with gardens at Caprarola. Estimate $300,000-500,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.

signed at the base of the staircase: INVE / ROBERT, oil on canvas, 18 by 28 in.;  45.5 by 71.5 cm.

PROVENANCE: Camille Groult, Paris;
His sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 21-22 June 1920, lot 104;
With Wildenstein & Co., New York, 1925;
from whom acquired by Henry Walters;
His sale, New York, Parke-Bernet, 30 April-3 May 1941, lot 1178;
Whereby purchased by B.J. Linsky, New York;
Enrique Astengo Rosario, Argentina;
By whom anonymously sold, New York, Christie’s, 11 January 1991, lot 83;
There purchased by Didier Aaron, Inc., New York;
From whom purchased by the present owner.

NOTE: The experience of travelling through Rome and its surrounding territories was fundamental to the development of the art of Hubert Robert and other French artists, notably Fragonard, who were active in Italy during the second half of the 18th Century. While both Robert and Fragonard visited many of the well known sites throughout the Roman Campagna–Tivoli, the Temple of the Sibyl, the gardens of the Villa d’Este, and as here, the Palazzo Farnese at Caprarola–Robert’s treatment of these well-visited landscapes often employ more dramatic compositions through their use of unusual viewpoints and cropped viewing angles.

Robert is known to have visited Caprarola in 1761 and 1764. On both occasions he produced a number of drawings and paintings which would serve him as models for later capricci. The figures, most usually washerwomen (as here), are shown engaged in everyday activities and are set in dramatic architectural surroundings in various states of decay and disrepair. Another depiction of the grounds at Caprarola by Robert was sold London, Sotheby’s, 9 July 1998, in which the artist has cropped the right side of the staircase in favor of a more angled and off kilter depiction of the staircase. Similarly, that version omits the palace at the pinnacle of the composition. In another version (private collection), Robert consumes the left portion of the composition with steam which rises from a pot of water, and also replaces the monumental niche sculpture in the center of this work with a water fountain. Interestingly, in all of his depictions of this particular site, Robert chooses to omit the reclining river god statues which in reality rest above the niche.1

When last sold at auction, it was noted that the present work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on Robert being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute.

1. see Claude to Corot, The Development of Landscape Painting in France, exhibition catalogue, Colnaghi, New York 1990, pp. 116 and 117.

Sotheby’s. Master Paintings: Part I. New York | 29 janv. 2015, 10:00 AM