The picture is a pendant to The Portico of a Country Mansion (35.40.2).
Among Robert’s exhibits at the 1775 Salon was a pair of paintings listed under number 71 as belonging to Monsieur de Frouville. The full description, in translation, was "Two Paintings, one The Return of the Cattle under the Ruins in the Setting Sun, the other The Portico of a Country Mansion, near Florence." The lender was Jean François Bergeret de Frouville (1719–1783), a wealthy official whose older brother was the better known collector Bergeret de Grancourt. The pictures were well received though one critic found Robert’s works inadequately finished and another remarked that the foreground of The Return of the Cattle was overelaborated. Nothing more was heard of them until 1919, when they were exhibited at Gimpel & Wildenstein in New York.
The painting is in every way typical of Robert, who favored ancient vaults, lanterns, diagonal light effects, and sheep descending zigzag paths accompanied by peasants on foot or mounted on donkeys. The girl riding sidesaddle derives from François Boucher (1703–1770), as Alan Wintermute pointed out.
[Katharine Baetjer 2014]
Jean François Bergeret de Frouville, Paris (by 1775–d. 1783); ?Baron d'Anchon, Paris; ?Monsieur L. de Lamolère, Paris; ?Monsieur de Boisfleury, Paris; ?Monsieur Favier, Paris; [Wildenstein, Paris and New York, 1919–21; sold to Mrs. Hewitt]; Mrs. Peter Cooper (Lucy Work) Hewitt, Paris (1921–d. 1934)
Paris. Salon. 1775, no. 71 (as "Le retour des Bestiaux sous les ruines au Soleil couchant," with 35.40.2, lent by M. de Frouville).
New York. Gimpel & Wildenstein. "Notable Paintings by Hubert Robert (1733–1808)," May 17–June 14, 1919, no. 12 (lent by Wildenstein).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "French Art: 1200–1900," January 4–March 12, 1932, no. 202 (lent by Mrs. Cooper-Hewitt).
Paris. Musée de l'Orangerie. "Hubert Robert," December 1933, no. 8 (lent by Mrs. Cooper-Hewitt).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Painting and Sculpture of the XVIII Century," November 6, 1935–January 5, 1936, no. 51.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 318.
Athens. National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Memories and Revivals of the Classical Spirit," August 15–November 15, 1979, no. 62.
Bordeaux. Galerie des Beaux-Arts. "Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso," May 15–September 1, 1981, no. 113.
New York. Wildenstein. "Hubert Robert: The Pleasure of Ruins," November 15–December 16, 1988, unnumbered cat.
Yokohama Museum of Art. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century," March 25–June 4, 1989, no. 47.
New York. Colnaghi. "Claude to Corot: The Development of Landscape Painting in France," November 1–December 15, 1990, no. 43A.
[C. N. Cochin or J. F. G. Colson]. Observations sur les ouvrages exposés au sallon du Louvre ou lettre à M. le comte de ***. 1775, p. 41 (Collection Deloynes, vol. 10, no. 160; McWilliam 1991, no. 0247), admires the chiaroscuro, but finds too much detail and little black holes in the foreground.
"Exposition des peintures, sculptures et gravures de messieurs de l'Académie royale de peinture en 1775." Mercure de France (October 1775), (Collection Deloynes, vol. 10, no. 165, p. 733; McWilliam 1991, no. 0246).
"Annonces, affiches et avis divers de Paris." Journal général de France (1775), p. 152 [see Ref. Wintermute, 1990].
Salon de 1775. 1775 [reprinted in Oeuvres complètes de Diderot, J. Assézat, ed., vol. 12, Paris, 1876, p. 18; and Diderot Salons, J. Seznec, vol. 4, Oxford, 1967, p. 286] (McWilliam 1991, no. 0250), admires it with reservations.
Gabriel Bouquier. Observations critiques sur le salon de 1775. 1775 [reprinted in Ref. Soubeyran and Vilain, 1975, p. 103] (McWilliam 1991, no. 0249), finds the color exaggerated.
C. Gabillot. Hubert Robert et son temps. Paris, 1895, pp. 118, 275.
Pierre de Nolhac. Hubert Robert, 1733–1808. Paris, 1910, p. 52.
Royal Academy of Arts. Commemorative Catalogue of the Exhibition of French Art, 1200–1900. London, 1933, p. 61, no. 236.
H[arry]. B. W[ehle]. and J[ohn]. G[oldsmith]. P[hillips]. "Notes: Bequest of Lucy Work Hewitt." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 30 (April 1935), p. 91.
Louise Burroughs. "Two Decorative Paintings by Hubert Robert." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 30 (December 1935), pp. 230–32, ill.
Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 161–63, ill., notes a similar scene in a Robert drawing in the museum at Valence; provides possible provenance.
Jean Seznec and Jean Adhémar, ed. Salons. By Denis Diderot. Vol. 4, 1769, 1771, 1775, 1781. Oxford, 1967, pp. 250–51, 286.
Françoise Soubeyran and Jacques Vilain. "Gabriel Bouquier, critique du Salon de 1775." Revue du Louvre 25 (1975), p. 103.
François Duret-Robert. "New York—Bordeaux." Connaissance des arts no. 353 (July 1981), p. 75, ill. (color).
Diderot et la critique de salon, 1759–1781. Exh. cat., Musée du Breuil de Saint-Germain. Langres, 1984, pp. 129–31, no. 39, ill.
Jean de Cayeux. Les Hubert Robert de la Collection Veyrenc au Musée de Valence. Exh. cat.Valence, 1985, p. 249, fig. 90.
Jean de Cayeux with the collaboration of Catherine Boulot. Hubert Robert. Paris, 1989, pp. 174–75, 216, 370 n. 5, notes that the inventory of Bergeret de Frouville's estate made in 1783 included "Quatre tableaux peints sur toile par Boucher et Robert, représentant paysages et architectures"; also notes among his papers a "quittance de prix des tableaux fournis à M. de frouville par Mrs. Robert et Boucher".
Alan Wintermute inClaude to Corot: The Development of Landscape Painting in France. Ed. Alan Wintermute. Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1990, pp. 91–92, 95, 206, 208–12, 217, no. 43A, ill. (color), observes that the girl riding side saddle is a quote from Boucher's "Journey to Market" (Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Mass.) and that Robert copies her again in "The Ruins" (65.242.6); suggests that the sketch for the seated woman and her daughter at the far left, for which a counterproof exists (private collection, France), may well have been copied after Boucher.
Alexis Gregory. "The French Landscape: Claude to Corot." Journal of Art 3 (December 1990), p. 17.
Joseph Baillio. "Hubert Robert's Decorations for the Château de Bagatelle." Metropolitan Museum Journal 27 (1992), p. 171, fig. 37.
Joseph Baillio et al. The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier. Exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc. New York, , p. 79.
Old Master Paintings. Christie's, New York. June 6, 2012, p. 89, under no. 81.
Catherine Voiriot inHubert Robert, 1733–1808: Un peintre visionnaire. Ed. Guillaume Faroult and Catherine Voiriot. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2016, p. 460.
Marie-Martine Dubreuil inHubert Robert, 1733–1808: Un peintre visionnaire. Ed. Guillaume Faroult and Catherine Voiriot. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2016, pp. 113, 115 n. 110.