Hubert Robert, a decorator of great notoriety, joined in the new trend for English gardens and, also deeply inspired by the classical models that he saw in Rome, took part in the renewal of French taste. In 1777, after being named dessinateur des jardins du roi, the artist presented Louis XVI with his plans for the new Bains d’Apollon, which had already been housed in two different structures. The landscape conceived by André Le Nôtre (1613–1700) for the park of Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV had meanwhile become centenary. The works started in 1778 under his supervision were extended until September 1780, when they were finally completed.
In an artificial rocky cave, flanked by stone columns designed to suggest the palace of Tethis, Robert introduced a central group of sculptures, Apollon servi par les nymphes [Apollo Tended by the Nymphs], accompanied by its pair, Les Chevaux d’Apollon pansés par les tritons [The Horses of Apollo Groomed by Tritons], placed on opposite sides and at a lower level. From the set of three groups sculpted in marble by Girardon, Regnaudin, Guérin and G. and B. Marsy in the 17th century, only one of the latter is seen in the painting still on its original support.
Count Tolstoy; D. V. Grigorovitch, 1870; Alexander III, Emperor of Russia, Anichkov Palace, 1870–94; Russian Imperial Family, 1814–1917; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, 1917–29. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Antikvariat, April 1929.
H. 67 cm; W. 101.7 cm
European Paintings from the Gulbenkian Collection, exhibition catalogue. Washington D. C.: National Gallery of Art, 1950, pp. 86–7, cat. 37.
Jean de Cayeux, Hubert Robert et les jardins. Paris: Herscher, 1987, pp. 15–19, 70, 72–9, no. 53.
Luísa Sampaio, Painting in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon/Milan: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum/Skira, 2009, pp. 104–5, cat. 42.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2011, p. 160, cat. 136.
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