PROPERTY OF A NEW YORK PRIVATE COLLECTOR
While imprisoned, he consoled himself by painting and drawing. Materials on which to paint were scarce and in many cases he used the earthenware prison plates on which his food was served as his "canvases." Many of the works executed during this time are signed in full or with the artist's initials followed by, as here, the letters "S.L." for Saint-Lazare. Many of the pictures Robert executed in prison are landscapes, painted from memory or purely imaginative compositions, a testament to the artist's creative genius.
The Fountain of Liberty bears close similarities to the plaster statue by F.F. Lemot which was placed in the center of the Place de la Révolution in August 1793 for the Festival of Unity. That sculpture sat on the pedestal of Bouchardon's equestrian statue of Louis XV, which had been destroyed in 1792 as a physical reminder of the triumph of Democracy over Monarchy. The downfall of the French monarchy is also symbolized in this painting by the fallen and broken stele at right. The inclusion of such overt democratic symbolism by Robert in this work was almost certainly an effort on the part of the artist to obtain good will from his revolutionary captors.
A variant copy of the Fountain of Liberty was sold Paris, Hôtel George V, 9 April 1991, lot 63. A red chalk study for the painting is located in the Museé de la Révolution Française, Vizille, and a number of watercolor renderings of the subject are also extant.
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the paintings of Hubert Robert being prepared with the assistance of the Wildenstein Institute.
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