Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

A Colonnade in Ruins

Hubert Robert (French, Paris 1733–1808 Paris)
Oil on canvas
23 x 61 1/8 in. (58.4 x 155.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 616
The ruins in this painting are modelled after Bernini's renowned colonnade for Saint Peter's in Rome. Its pendant, Arches in Ruins (17.190.31), is exhibited in this gallery on the opposite wall over the door.
The painting is the companion piece to Arches in Ruins (17.190.31) and the compositions and color schemes of the two are sympathetic. The open arcade would have been recognizable to many of Robert’s contemporaries as the curving portico through which you approach St. Peter’s basilica, here transferred to a green bank in front of a mountain landscape, deprived of the statues on its roofline, and reduced to decay. Plant life flourishes on the cornice. Impending decay and the passage of time are suggested.

[Katharine Baetjer 2011]
?Pierre Justin Armand Verdier, comte de Flaux, château de Flaux, near Uzès (until d. 1883); ?Édouard Henri Roger Verdier, comte de Flaux, château de Flaux (1883–d. 1898); Clémence Pascal Verdier, comtesse douairière de Flaux, château de Flaux (1898–d. 1908); Flaux estate (under arbitration, 1908–10); Eliane Berger, Roger de Flaux's daughter (1910–11; offered for sale to MMA and J. Pierpont Morgan through Maurice de Verneuil); J. Pierpont Morgan, New York (1911–d. 1913; his estate, 1913–17; on loan to MMA from April 1912)
Paris. Thos. Agnew & Sons. "Hubert Robert (1733–1808)," March 12–30, 1912, one of nos. 1–8 (as "Panneaux Décoratifs pour un salon, provenant de la collection de Madame de Flaux," lent by J. Pierpont Morgan).

Northampton, Mass. Smith College Museum of Art. "Pompeiian Exhibition," November 18–December 15, 1948, no catalogue.

New York. Wildenstein. "Hubert Robert: The Pleasure of Ruins," November 15–December 16, 1988, unnumbered cat.

Oberlin, Ohio. Allen Memorial Art Museum. "The Splendor of Ruins in French Landscape Painting, 1630–1800," March 19–June 19, 2005, no. 32.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Splendor of Ruins in French Landscape Painting, 1630–1800," July 17–October 16, 2005, no. 32.

D. F[riedley]. "Decorative Panels by Hubert Robert." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 7 (July 1912), pp. 130–31, announces J. Pierpont Morgan's loan of eight paintings by Robert and claims that this picture and its pendant (17.190.31) decorated the same room as the others (17.190.25–30).

Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 167–68, states that there is no evidence for the tradition that this canvas and its companion were painted for Bagatelle.

Joseph Baillio. "Hubert Robert's Decorations for the Château de Bagatelle." Metropolitan Museum Journal 27 (1992), pp. 173, 182 n. 49, observes that this painting and its pendant may have been in the Flaux collection with Robert's paintings from Bagatelle, and that all of them were offered by Maurice de Verneuil to this Museum and then to Morgan.

Stephen D. Borys. The Splendor of Ruins in French Landscape Painting, 1630–1800. Exh. cat., Allen Memorial Art Museum. Oberlin, Ohio, 2005, pp. 154–55, no. 32, ill. (color).

From a typescript in the MMA Archives (see Morgan, J.P., 1st, M. 8224, Loans- Paintings and Miniatures, Old Master Drawings): "Mystery of the Panels, Paris Letter," incorrectly as in American Art News, Dec. 29, 1917, it is stated that Robert painted eight panels for Bagatelle which Empress Eugénie gave to her physician; they were sold to Comte Flaux, and later entered the collection of De Verneuil, head of Paris syndicate of official agents de change; the six panels were sold "about 10 years ago" to Morgan for "something like $200,000"; the question of the whereabouts of the other two is raised.
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