HUBERT ROBERT | THE LAKE AND CHÂTEAU AT MÉRÉVILLE; THE RUSTIC BRIDGE AND THE TEMPLE OF FILIAL PIETY AT MÉRÉVILLE
Paris 1733 - 1808
THE LAKE AND CHÂTEAU AT MÉRÉVILLE; THE RUSTIC BRIDGE AND THE TEMPLE OF FILIAL PIETY AT MÉRÉVILLE
a pair, both oil on canvas, the latter unlined
each: 25¼ by 31⅞ in.; 64.1 by 81 cm.
Jean Joseph, Marquis de Laborde (1724-1794), Château de Méréville, near Éstapes, and Hôtel de Laborde, rue Ceruti, Paris;
Confiscated from the above on 24 July 1794 and deposited at the Hôtel de Nesle;
Returned to the Marquise de Laborde (née Rosalie Claire Josèphe de Nettine), Laborde's widow, on 25 January 1797;
Thence by descent to her son, Alexandre Louis Joseph, Comte de Laborde (1774-1842) and his heirs;
Camille Groult (1832-1908), Paris;
Comtesse Robert de Fitz-James, née Rosalie von Gutman (1862-1923);
By inheritance to the above to her half-bothers, Motitz and Rudolf von Gutman;
By whom presented to Comte Alexandre de Laborde (1853-1944), great-grandson of the Marquis de Laborde, by 1928;
Private collection, by 1951, until 1963; when acquired by
Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Gilmour, Locust Valley, New York, until 1982;
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1982.
P. de Nolhac, Hubert Robert, Paris 1910, p. 57, reproduced p. 58;
C. Gronkowski, "The Exhibition of French Landscapes from Poussin to Corot," Apollo, I, no. 6, June 1925, reproduced p. 315;
P. Sentenac, Hubert Robert, Paris 1929, pp. 46, 53, reproduced pl. 41;
E. de Ganay, "Fabriques aux jardins du XVIIIe siècle: édifices de la Chine et de l'Orient, temples, belvédères, pavillons," Revue de l'Art Ancien et Moderne, LXIV, June-December 1933, reproduced p. 65;
G. Grappe, "Hubert Robert," Le Figaro Illustré, February 1934, reproduced p. 71;
G. Isarlo, "Hubert Robert," Connaissance des Arts, no. 18, August 1953, p. 32, cited under no. 64;
P. de Nolhac, "Hubert Robert a peint aussi les paysages français," Jardin des Arts, April 1958, pp. 355-356, reproduced;
S. de Lassus, "Les Fabriques de Méréville et de Jeurre," L'Information d'Histoire de l'Art, no. 1, January-February 1975, reproduced p. 32, fig. 1
S. de Lassus, "Quelques détails inédits sur Méréville," Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français, 1976, p. 280, reproduced p. 279, fig. 5;
P. Miquel, Paysage et société, 1800-1900. L'Ecole de la nature, V, Mause-la-Jolie, 1985, reproduced p. 77;
G. Herzog, Hubert Robert und das Bild im Garten, Worms 1989, pp. 107, 223, under note 347;
Claude to Corot: The Development of Landscape Painting in France, exhibition catalogue, Colnaghi, New York 1990, p. 118, reproduced p. 119, fig. 18 and p. 120, fig. 19;
P. Grate, French Paintings II: Eighteenth Century, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm 1994, p. 309, cited under nos. 276-77 and note 9, reproduced figs 1 and 2;
F. d'Ormesson and P. Wittmer, Aux jardins de Méréville: une promenade aux jardins de Méréville pittoresque sous la IIIe République, 1895-1905, Neuilly 1999, pp. 45 and 129, cat. no. 119; pp. 66 and 130, cat. no. 172, reproduced in color on cover;
M. Mosser, "Hubert Robert, 1733-1808," in Créateurs de jardins et de paysages en France de la Renaissance au XXIe siècle, Arles 2002, reproduced in color, p. 161;
F. d'Ormesson and J.-P. Thomas, Jean Joseph de Laborde: banquier de Louis XV, mécène des Lumières, Paris 2002, pp. 160, 194, 212-213, reproduced pl. between pp. 174 and 175;
Y.-M. Allain and J. Christiany, L'Art des jardins en Europe: de l'évolution des idées et des savoir-faire, Paris 2006, reproduced pp. 332-333;
G. Faroult, Hubert Robert: Un peintre visionnaire, exhibition catalogue, Paris 2016, p. 112 and p. 115 under note 100;
M.M. Grasselli and Y. Jackall, Hubert Robert, exhibition catalogue, Washington 2016, p. 33, reproduced p. 32, fig. 1.
Paris, Petit Palais, Paysage français de Poussin à Corot, May-June 1925, no. 299;
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Exposition rétrospective d'art français, 3 July - 3 October 1926, nos. 100, 101;
Paris, Château de Bagatelle, La Saison de Bagatelle: exposition des peintres de jardins des XVIIIe et XIXe siècles, June-July 1928, nos. 77, 78;
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Exposition Hubert Robert, 1933, nos. 82, 83;
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Chateaubriand, 1768-1848: exposition du centenaire, 1948, nos. 259, 260;
Tokyo and New York, Wildenstein, Hubert Robert: The Pleasure of Ruins, 12 February - 11 April 1987 (Tokyo) and 15 November - 16 December 1988 (New York).
Hubert Robert was the pre-eminent French landscape painter of the late 18th century, training for over a decade in Rome before establishing himself at the center of the Parisian art world upon his return to the city in 1765. During these early years, Robert developed what would be a life-long fascination with architecture and his many depictions of ruins earned him the sobriquet “Robert des Ruines.” By the time the artist returned to Paris, he was already successful and well-known. He was accepted as a member of the Academy in 1766 and, in 1778, was appointed designer of the King’s gardens and given lodgings in the Louvre. He exhibited regularly at the Salons until 1797 and completed countless commissions for the nobility, aristocracy and foreign dignitaries throughout his career. He was renowned for his landscapes featuring ancient ruins and beautiful gardens, often incorporating both known and fantastical architectural elements in his compositions.
Dating to circa 1790, this pair of paintings faithfully depicts the grounds, gardens and monuments surrounding Jean Joseph de Laborde’s Château de Méréville, located 17km south of Étampes, between Paris and Orléans. Laborde (1724-1794), banker to the court of Louis XVI, had acquired the estate from the La Tour du Pin family in 1784 and set about to enlarge and embellish the château and grounds at a cost of some ten million livres. He first hired the architects J.F. Belanger and J.B. Barré to create a garden inspired by Marie Antoinette's English garden at Trianon, but by 1786 Laborde removed Belanger from the project and entrusted the project's completion to Hubert Robert. Laborde's great respect for Robert, who continued to be involved at Méréville until 1793, is underscored by the magnificent portrait of the artist which Laborde commissioned from Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun in 1788 (fig. 1).
Within the garden that already featured a fabricated water source and islands, Robert created an expansive space with poetic vistas and intimate spots that was filled with temples, monuments, ruins, and a series of rustic bridges spanning the small river Juine, which had been diverted to meander through the property and end in a man-made lake in front of the château, as seen in the first painting here. The second includes the Temple of the Filial Piety, which was inspired by Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli.
A few years before completing the present works, Laborde commissioned six large panels of fanciful Roman ruins from Robert, to decorate the salon d'hiver and billiard room of the château. The four made for the salon d'hiver are now in the Art Institute of Chicago (figs. 2 and 3). Robert also completed a number of views of the estate which varied in size and subject, many of which were displayed in Laborde's townhouse in Paris. A comparable though larger view of the lake and the Château by Robert is today in the Musée de l’Ile de France, Sceaux.
During the revolution, Laborde's Paris townhouse and its contents were confiscated; Laborde was tried as an enemy of the state in April 1794 and killed. An inventory of the townhouse's contents includes the description of three views of the estate at Méréville, two of which were most likely the present paintings. The pictures were also cited in an affidavit written by Hubert Robert confirming to the Arts Ministry that he had painted a number of landscapes for Laborde; it was on this basis that the paintings were eventually returned to Laborde's widow.
Laborde's heirs held onto Méréville until 1819. Though a subsequent owner destroyed much of the the château and its environs, a number of the garden monuments and temples were removed to the nearby estate of Jeurre, where they can be seen today. The present paintings descended in the family until the mid-19th century, and then were given back to his great-grandson Comte Alexandre de Laborde (1853-1944).
1. D. Picard, "Jeurre, pour qui vivent les pierres,"
Connaissance des Arts,
April 1984, pp. 82-89.