Hubert Robert, French, Architectural Fantasy, ca. 1765-1770, Oil on canvas; 114 x 147.8 cm (44 7/8 x 58 3/16 inches), Museum Appropriation Fund 37.104
Hubert Robert was the leading painter of architectural ruins in the second half of the 18th century. He learned the principles of Italian view painting while studying at the French Academy in Rome, where he produced numerous drawings of antique monuments, palaces, and gardens. Robert’s Architectural Fantasy represents a convention in which actual buildings were recombined to create an imaginative view. The coffered vaults of the bridge resemble those of the Basilica of Maxentius, and the bridge itself relates to Robert’s drawings of Rome’s Villa Madama. The magnificent construction is decorated with famous antique sculptures, such as the Horses of San Marco, the Apollo Belvedere, and the Venus de’ Medici. Informed by the dramatic perspectives Robert admired in contemporary etchings, it offers antiquarian detail in a setting that awes, instructs, and ultimately deceives the viewer into accepting it as history.