1785, huile sur toile, 139 x 93 cm
Why is this work so important?
Hubert Robert became famous for his paintings of landscape ruins. When the painting was presented, its extensive use of perspective attracted much interest.
Antiquity represented a familiar setting for the painter Hubert Robert. This work represents the interior of a Roman basilica: the grandiose ruins of a basilica with vaults decorated with coffers and a Corinthian colonnade, serving as a cowshed for a herd. The light enters through a hole in the collapsed vault and a shaded area in the foreground—a pile of rubble on top of which a cow stands out—accentuates the remarkable effect of perspective. Particularly interested in the theme of the gallery, he sublimated these remains by exploiting and magnifying the ravages of time. With his subtle and suggestive style of painting, he animated these ruins in a way that is unique to him, by integrating figures that perfectly correspond with the setting.
A figure in a Roman tunic can be seen in the group of people that has entered the gallery: a recurrent imaginary feature of the painter’s work.
Did you know?
Hubert Robert’s painting illustrates the possibility of overhead natural lighting for the Grande Galerie of the Louvre, which, at the end of the eighteenth century, was earmarked to become a museum. The hole in the vault, through which a ray of light passes, prefigured the overhead natural lighting in the museums that were subsequently created.