ROBERT, Hubert
(b. 1733, Paris, d. 1808, Paris)

The Draughtsman of the Borghese Vase

c. 1775
Red chalk, 365 x 290 mm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valence

Rome's ancient ruins was a source of inspiration in the late 18th century, as this drawing shows. Distorting the proportions of the scene like Piranesi, Robert composed an architectural "capriccio" from a number of set pieces that were freely designed and rendered in the manner of veduta. The artist of the title is seen sketching the gigantic Borghese Vase on a square above the Forum, which had a view to the Coliseum - a building whose vertical dimensions Robert extended by adding an additional series of arcades. The Borghese Vase was actually never exhibited close to the Coliseum, but was situated in the Borghese gardens. The inscription illuminates an idealized relationship to Antiquity: Rome's former glory is still revealed in its ruins. With the brownish red-chalk crayon typical of the late 18th century, Robert achieved subtly drawn as well as painterly effects. The fragile, delicate contours and the schematic manner in which the foliage of trees is depicted recall the Rococo.