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The Cloister of the Augustinian Nuns, late 18th century

Hubert Robert
French, 1733-1808
Oil on canvas
51-1/4 x 41-3/8 in. (130.2 x 105.1 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

Not on View

Hubert Robert went to Rome in 1754, reveling in the archeological fever and great intellectual ferment that followed the discovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii. No doubt Robert’s inclination toward subjects depicting architectural fantasies and ruins was further nurtured through his studies with Giovanni Paolo Pannini and his warm acquaintance with Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

The Cloister of the Augustinian Nuns reveals Robert’s delight in describing the long, perspectival recession of the arcade, and the wash of light that gives a strong diagonal accent to the canvas. Several preparatory drawings exist for the nuns shown going about their chores. This and other genre elements, such as the cat sunning itself on a blanket and the kettle on the fire, contribute to the picturesque aesthetic so beloved in the eighteenth century.

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