The two large drawings are infused with Grand Tour sentiment. Conceived to be souvenirs sold to travellers visiting Italy during the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as engravings by Piranesi and paintings by Giaovanni Paolo Pannini, they depict one of the most symbolic sites of Latin Antiquity culture, the Roman Forum. The artist realized two opposing views to form length-wise matches. For one, he chose to display the main monuments: on the left, the Arch of Septimius Severus partially buried, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (transformed into a Baroque church) largely concealing the immense arcades of the Basilica of Maxentius, and the Colosseum in the background; on the right, the portico from the Temple of Saturn, with three front columns from the Temple of Vespasian and Titus. For the second, the spectator faces the impressive back of the Capitol with columns from ancient temples scattered here and there.
These two landscapes are typical of the great majority of works by the painter Nicolas-Didier Boguet, whose paternity is attested by the signature affixed on the lower right on each of them. Born in Chantilly in 1755, Boguet went to Rome in 1783, where he was to stay only a few months. Being seduced by the landscapes of Latium, this "classical land", in his wording, referring to the ancient history and the legend of Rome notably told by Virgil, as well as by the lighting so characteristic of the bucolic atmosphere described by Chateaubriand, he finally established his entire career there, except for a stay in Florence between 1793 and 1797. Boguet drew his inspiration directly from nature and designs by his famous predecessors Claude Lorrain and Gaspard Dughet, hence considered a worthy successor according to Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (letter by Ingres addressed to an unknown person, published by A.-J. Boyer of Agen, Ingres from an unpublished correspondence, Paris, 1909, pp. 194-198). His paintings and drawings, imaginary or partly real landscapes, prove so today, including the two presented here.
Unlike the hundreds of life studies held by the artist in his studio, these two views of the Forum were intended for sale to travellers passing through Rome, as were several others depicting the same place (I paesaggi di Nicolas-Didier Boguet ei luoghi tibulliani, exh. cat., Introduction and descriptions by Giulia Fusconi and appendix by Giovanni Rizzardi, Rome, Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe, Villa alla Farnesina alla Lungara, 1984, pp. 21, 24). In addition to the paintings, the catalogue written by the painter's son Didier Boguet (1802-1861) contains a list of dozens of drawings sold or given by their creator to various people (among others the Duchess of Devonshire, the Count of Caraman, the painter François Gérard, the Prince von Metternich, Chateaubriand). This document explains that those from Sotheby's were offered to the French sculptor Paul Lemoyne, a friend of Nicolas-Didier Boguet, and designer of the latter's cenotaph at the church, Saint-Louis-des-Français in Rome. An inscription, today not visible, but indicated in the Bailly exhibition catalogue, the verso of one of the two drawings details that it was the artist's son who made this decision. It is undoubtedly these two views of the Forum along with "View of Aroli, beyond Tivoli, Near the Borders of the Kingdom of Naples" that Hippolyte Flandrin saw at Lemoyne's residence in January 1864 (H. Naef, 1977 ). These works were not only a souvenir of Lemoyne's visit in Rome, but also a pledge of friendship between the two artists.
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