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Inscribed to original label on backboard Vue de Forum Romanum à Rome

Titled to original label on backboard Ducros & Volpato

Watercolour with faintly etched outlines

49 x 72.5 cm



Private collection, France



Giovanni Volpato 1735-1803 (ed. Giorgio Marini), Bassano del Grappa (1988), p.146, fig. 232 (wherein a similar work is reproduced)





During his partnership with Abraham-Louis-Rodolphe Ducros, Volpato was largely responsible for etching the outlines of the topography of Rome and its environs, while Ducros painted the works with watercolour and heightened them in pen & ink. Intriguingly, the pair did collaborate to produce a more naive treatment of this view - with different staffage and a slightly more cropped perspective (see fig. second from top right) - suggesting that they drew not only on Ducros’ own watercolours but Volpato’s for their repertoire of ‘hybrid’ views.


An identical version of this scene by Volpato alone was previously sold at Sotheby’s, New York, 21.03.2021, Lot 148 (as French School 18th Century, one of a pair in the lot) while another was previously with Galeria Paolo Antonacci, Rome. Examples of the jointly-produced etching with watercolour by both Volpato and Ducros include that sold at Christie’s, Paris, 28.11.2022, Lot 310 and another example formerly with the aforementioned Galeria Paolo Antonacci.




Abraham-Louis-Rodolphe was the son of a drawing master at Yverdon College. He was born in Moudon and came to Geneva in 1769, to study under Nicolas-Henri-Joseph de Fassin. He subsequently left for Italy, establishing himself in Rome at the end of 1776: it was a difficult time for a young vedutisto to make his way, as the field was largely dominated by the Hackert brothers (Johann Philip & Johann Gottlieb) and was on the precipice of an influx of innovative, gifted British artists like Towne, Pars and Jones. Fortunately for Ducros, in 1778 he was employed by two Dutch noblemen to accompany them on a four-month voyage to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and Malta where he created close to three hundred watercolours (held currently by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam). This trip ‘put him on the map’ as it were for likeminded clients and his artistic peers.


Ducros remained in Rome from 1777 to 1793, working as a landscape painter, largely in watercolours (his oils are, comparatively, very rare). It was his business partnership with the Italian engraver Giovanni Volpato that secured his legacy however. Volpato, already renowned for his engravings of the Papal loggia frescos and decorations, would provide Ducros with the etched outlines of scenes which Ducros particularly liked and had sketched or painted previously (as in the case of the present work); Ducros could then concentrate on colouring these with watercolour, without having to work up the outlines afresh each time. This also meant that the pair could effectively produce the most popular Grand Tourist views with a swift turnaround for clients, and with a consistency of quality that some artists would struggle with. Furthermore, the canny Tourist could purchase such works for less than the more costly oils or gouaches of Hackert et al, and could rest assured that only the cognoscenti could spot the difference in quality between the etched works and an original watercolour by Ducros (and even then only on close inspection). In collaboration with the Volpato, Ducros published twenty-four engravings depicting views of Rome and its surroundings.


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