This work straddles the boundary between a sketch and a finished painting. Key monuments are shown as fragments of a compositional whole that is equal parts natural and urban, ancient and modern. In the foreground, the broken contours of a grassy row of arches playfully anticipate the forms of the architecture beyond. This Picturesque device contrasts with the purely functional scaffolding abutting the Colosseum, which was erected by the architect Giuseppe Valadier about 1822–23 to help stabilize the amphitheater’s long-crumbling outer wall.
In 1821 Rémond, a pupil of Jean Victor Bertin, won the second Prix de Rome in the category of historical landscape painting, enabling him to study for four years in Italy. In a series of tableautins (little paintings), that he painted there, Rémond developed an approach to painting that combines sketching from nature and classical composition, of which this is a highly successful example.
In View of the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine from the Palatine, major monuments are shown as fragments subsumed into a compositional whole that is equal parts natural and urban, ancient and modern. The timelessness of the view is belied by a single inconspicuous detail: scaffolding abutting the Colosseum. This truss was in place for a very short time, perhaps two years, beginning in 1822; it was designed by the architect Giuseppe Valadier (1762–1839), as part of a project to stabilize the first-century amphitheater’s long-crumbling outer wall. By including this detail, Rémond imbued a timeless image with a sense of the present in a painting that straddles the boundary between a sketch and a finished painting. He did not forego picturesque convention entirely: what may initially register as part of the hill in the middle distance is actually a grassy row of arches just beyond arm’s reach, a barrier both solid and permeable whose broken contours playfully anticipate the forms of the architecture beyond.
This painting has been identified as one that Rémond included in an auction of oil studies from his atelier that he organized in 1842, when it was purchased by the genre painter, portraitist, and occasional landscapist Louis Léopold Boilly (1761–1845). His son Julien Boilly was painting plein-air sketches in Rome in 1825 (and perhaps earlier), at the same time as Rémond; perhaps they were acquainted.
[Asher Ethan Miller 2013]
Inscription: Signed (lower left): Rémond.
probably the artist's sale, “Ventes d’études peintes en Italie, en France et en Suisse,” Hôtel des ventes, Paris, February 21–23, 1842, no. 65 under “Rome et ses environs,” as “Vue de l’Arc de Constantin, prise du palais des empereurs, for Fr 60 to Boilly); probably Louis-Léopold Boilly, Paris (1842–d. 1845; his posthumous sale, 8 bis, rue Saint-Benoît, Paris, January 31, 1845, no. 45, one of three "études de paysages, d'après nature" by Rémond, this painting to Hazard); probably Hazard; [Neal Fiertag, until 1990; sold on June 21 to Whitney]; Wheelock Whitney III, New York (from 1990)
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "In the Light of Italy: Corot and Early Open-air Painting," May 26–September 2, 1996, no. 77 (as "The Arch of Titus and the Colosseum," lent from a private collection, New York).
Brooklyn Museum. "In the Light of Italy: Corot and Early Open-air Painting," October 11, 1996–January 12, 1997, no. 77.
Saint Louis Art Museum. "In the Light of Italy: Corot and Early Open-air Painting," February 21–May 18, 1997, no. 77.
Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art. "The Romantic Prospect: Plein Air Painters, 1780–1850," June 22–August 15, 2004, no. 28.
Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales. "Plein-air Painting in Europe, 1780–1850," September 4–October 31, 2004, no. 28.
Melbourne. National Gallery of Victoria. "Plein-air Painting in Europe, 1780–1850," November 19, 2004–January 16, 2005, no. 28.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Path of Nature: French Paintings from the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785–1850," January 22–April 21, 2013, unnumbered cat. (fig. 45).
Jeremy Strick inIn the Light of Italy: Corot and Early Open-air Painting. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1996, p. 205, no. 77, ill. (color), dates it 1821–25; misidentifies the arch as that of Titus.
Vincent Pomarède inLa donation Jacques Petithory au musée Bonnat, Bayonne: Objets d'art, sculptures, peintures, dessins. Ed. Pierre Rosenberg. Exh. cat.Paris, 1997, p. 130, (calls it "l'Arc de Titus et le Colisée"; locates it in a private collection).
Gary Tinterow. "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2002–2003." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 61 (Fall 2003), pp. 5, 30–31, ill. (color), dates it about 1820.
Yukitaka Kohari inPlein-Air Painting in Europe, 1780–1850. Exh. cat., Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art. Shizuoka, 2004, p. 74, no. 28, ill. (color), dates it 1821/26; notes the recent identification of the arch as that of Constantine and states that the Arch of Titus had been dismantled during Rémond's stay in Rome.
John House. "Impressionism and the Open-Air Oil Sketch." Studying Nature: Oil Sketches from the Thaw Collection. Ed. Jennifer Tonkovich. New York, 2011, p. 98 n. 3.
Asher Ethan Miller. "The Path of Nature: French Paintings from the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785–1850." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 70 (Winter 2013), pp. 37–38, 47, fig. 45 (color).