Robert, Hubert (1733 - 1808)

The Drinking Trough

Exposé en salle

Date : En 1804
Size : H. 60 x l. 73 cm
Inventory number : J 100
Signature : Signé à gauche, sur le tombeau : "D.M.H. Robert hoc sibi suisque parentibus sepulchrum erexit 1804"
Date : Daté à gauche, sur le tombeau : "D.M.H. Robert hoc sibi suisque parentibus sepulchrum erexit 1804"

A horse drinking, dogs at rest and three figures are enjoying the Roman countryside in front of a fountain. These figures, including the woman waving her hands who seems to be slipping from the horse, enliven the composition so much that they attract the attention of the statues in the niches, thus indicating that this scene from everyday life, captured by the painter, is anecdotal rather than realistic. A facade evocative of a Renaissance palace with its two niches housing ancient statues and a fountain adorned with fighting newts from which water flows, on the balustrade, encapsulates the composition. This group of newts in an acroterion sculpture is a tribute to Italian sculptors: Jean de Bologne and even more so Bernini. As in most of Hubert Robert’s works, ancient fragments litter the ground. Ruined columns and capitals contribute to the nostalgic atmosphere of the composition. They are an inexhaustible source of inspiration and motifs in the compositions of Hubert Robert, inviting us to meditate on the disappearance of civilisations. Artists in residence at the French Academy or simply passing through Rome studied the antiques to perfect their learning and technique.

The ancient tomb is not a real monument but an invention of the painter. Traditional in terms of its composition, with a bust and funerary bas-reliefs, it nevertheless displays an unexpected Latin inscription: D.M.H. Robert hoc sibi suisque parentibus sepulchrum erexit 1804 (H. Robert erected this tomb in 1804 for himself and his parents). The theme of the passage of time, frequently associated with ancient ruins in a natural landscape which is taking back its ground, is extended here by a real meditation on death, witnessing to the wisdom of the ageing artist, but not without humour if we consider the suggestive position of the dog. In this composition, Hubert Robert achieves a controlled balance in a sensitive vision of Italy, where eternal grandeur, nostalgia and fictions of everyday life mingle.

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