Hubert ROBERT (Paris, 1733 – 1808)

View of the Little Cascades at Tivoli

38 x 53 cm. (15 x 20 78 in.)
1772. Oil on canvas. Signed and dated lower left: H. Robert 1772. Sculpted gilt oak frame carved in rococo motifs and curlecues.

• Count Alexander S. Stroganov (de Stroganoff) (1733-1811), Moscow.
• France, Private Collection.


1773, Paris, Salon, no 94: “View near Tivoli. Painting 18 inches wide and 13 inches high. Belonged to the Count of Stroganoff”

This picture presents one of the most famous sites in 18th century Europe, the climax of the Grand Tour. Tivoli held a ceaseless fascination for Hubert Robert, as testified by the many canvases he painted in the course of his career which showed the picturesque qualities of the natural site and the richness of its monumental heritage. The artist had visited Tivoli several times during his Roman sojourn between 1754 and 1765.

In 1769, three years after his reception as an architectural painter into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, Robert exhibited The Little Cascades of Tivoli. Our painting, signed by Robert in 1772, is derived from that composition, which in turn was conceived in emulation of the famous views by Joseph Vernet, uncontested master of river views.

From the 1769 painting now in Pau, Robert conserved the horizontal format framed by trees and with a series of planes which made it possible to show people from the Roman countryside, with the cascade and ancient monumental ruins on each side, namely the Temple of Vesta and the Villa of Maecenas. This choice of composition and variety of natural elements offered multiple chromatic changes in tonality. The process was even more ambitious in that Robert realized several variations of views of Tivoli which he exhibited in the Salons of 1769, 1771, 1773 and 1777. Although he did not change the framing, he changed motifs. For example, the Temple of Vesta could be shown from several sides, with or without the neighboring church, while the human and animal figures were substitutable. Thus, in the Pau picture, the dog barking at a shepherd stretched out on the ground is transformed into an ox in our canvas, and then substituted by donkeys in the Petit Palais painting signed 1776 (inv. PPP257). These changes permitted each owner of his works to possess a work exhibited at the Salon which was also based on a prestigious precedent, in this case, The Little Cascades of Tivoli belonging to the Count of Saint Florentin which had been in the 1769 Salon.

The dimensions of the painting and date of 1772 correspond to the version painted for the Count of Stroganoff and exhibited in the Salon of 1773. The Count of Stroganoff counted among Robert’s most important clients and didn’t hesitate to serve as an intermediary for painting commissions emanating from the Imperial family from 1772 until 1805.

- Sarah Catala

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