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HUBERT ROBERT (1733-1808)
  • HUBERT ROBERT (1733-1808)


    Bears dealer's stamp l.r. (L.4461)

    Sanguine chalks on paper 

    11 x 21 cm



    Sold as part of the artist's studio sale, Paris, 05.04.1809 (possibly lot 353, pace Cailleux);

    Ernest May (1845-1925), Paris, by whom pasted into his eponymous album of Robert drawings;

    Jean de Cayeux, Galerie Cailleux, Paris (Lugt 4461)



    Geneva, Gallerie Cailleux, Un Album de Croquis d'Hubert Robert, 30 October - 15 December 1979, cat. no. 30 (repr.)





    The subject of this work is one of two famous lions, sculpted in black granite and thought originally to have been taken by the Emperor Domitian from the 1st century BC Temple of Isis and Serapis in Rome. The lions were eventually placed on plinths either side of the base of the Cordonata ramp, which leads up to the Piazza del Campidoglio in the Capitoline. They were adapted, in the 16th century, for use as fountains, with spouts placed in their mouths and basis positioned beneath the  Contemporary accounts state that on at least two occasions, in 1644 for the election of Pope Innocent X and in 1670 for that of Pope Clement X, white and red wine poured from the lions’ mouths instead of water, “with great solace to the people”. Copies of the black granite lions were made in black basalt in the 19th century to replace the ones either side of the Cordonata, with the originals moved inside to the Capitoline Museums. 


    In 1762, Robert drew both lions in situ in sanguine chalks, with that drawing formerly with the gallery of Julius Böhler in Munich. The Capitoline Lions reappear in numerous paintings by Robert, including (among others) La Pont aux Sphinx in the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum; Pont menant à un Palais (Bowes Museum, Castle Barnard); Vue des Jardins de la Villa Aldobrandini (sold at Christie's, London, 13.12.2000, Lot 60); and repeated four times in Lavandières près d'une fontaine à la vasque antique et aux lions, sold at Artcurial, Paris, 23.03.2022, Lot 124.



    Our drawing was originally part of an album that contained 152 sketches made by Hubert Robert between 1775 and 1806 (cf. Cailleux, 1979), named for its owner Ernest May, a Paris-based financier and art collector, with each drawing pasted onto a blank sheet. This particular subject is one of the most repeated motifs in Robert's oeuvre, and it is remarkable to consider that the young artist must have been studying this sculpture in detail for one of the first times in the present sheet.


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