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Work Artists drawing in the inner courtyard of the Capitoline Museum in Rome

Department of Prints and Drawings: 18th century

Artistes dessinant dans la cour intérieure du Musée du Capitole à Rome

RMN-Grand Palais - Photo M. Urtado

Prints and Drawings
18th century

Surname FirstName1, Surname2 FirstName2

When Natoire was director of the French Academy in Rome, the study of classical art by means of excavations and scholarly publications had assumed growing importance, as is attested by this view of the courtyard of the Capitoline Museum, drawn from the top of the staircase. The artist's elegant, lively pen sketches artists, archaeologists, and "connoisseurs" at work, without overlooking the picturesque detail of a female figure drawing water from the fountain.

A favorite spot

Natoire sketched this view of the entrance gallery to the Capitoline Museum in Rome in 1759. Two pupils are studying the sculptures in a ground-floor gallery, and the majority of these works can be identified. In the foreground is a large Egyptian statue representing Tuaa, the mother of Ramesses II, followed by Uranus or Astronomy holding a globe, Abundance (placed in the gallery in 1735), Endymion, and, in the background, the sarcophagus of Alexander Severus. On the left are two statues of Amazons and a gigantic head; on the right, a fountain designed by Giacomo della Porta, adorned with a colossal statue of the river god, Marforio (one of the most famous statues in Rome ever since the twelfth century, it had been discovered near the Forum of Mars and moved to the Capitol in 1594). The Capitoline Museum was a favorite spot for artists, who were free to come and go there as they pleased, and soon became a meeting-place for all those with a passion for antiquity. An engraving by Campiglia, on the first page of the third volume of Bottari's Museo Capitalino, already shows artists busy sketching the museum's antiquities. It is difficult to know whether the frequency of this theme in the drawings of Natoire, Robert, and Ango should be attributed to a tendency among pupils of the Academy to take up the same subjects, or to a wish to make a thorough-going tour of the museum and depict the regular presence of artists there.

The first museum

For two centuries, the Capitol had served as a kind of storehouse for antique statuary. In 1736, Pope Clement XII (1730-40) decided to open it up as the first museum in the modern sense of the word. As someone close to the city's scholarly circles, Charles-Joseph Natoire shared in this passion for antiquarian scholarship, assembling a collection of fragments of classical statuary, in a garden he had acquired in 1755 behind the Campo Vaccino, so that pupils of the Academy could draw and study in a setting conducive to meditating upon ruins.

Two visions

The painter Hubert Robert also sketched this gallery in a drawing made around the same period (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valence). It is interesting to compare the two works, since, while the viewpoint is slightly different, both artists are inspired by the same taste for antiquity and have a common interest in informal and sometimes fantastic groupings of figures. Like Natoire, Robert combines figures in contemporary dress with others in classical attire. The two artists are quite different, however, in their manner of rendering light. In Natoire's drawing, it falls evenly across the scene; the shadows are soft, the areas of light wholly without violence. In Robert's sketch, everything sparkles and shimmers in a kind of joyous flurry of red chalk.


L. Duclaux, Le cabinet d'un grand amateur P. J. Mariette (1694-1774) : Dessins du XVe siècle au XVIIIe siècle, cat. exp. Paris, Musée du Louvre, avril-décembre 1967, notice 249.L. Duclaux, Musée du Louvre. Cabinet des dessins. Inventaire général des dessins, école française. Tome XII, Paris, RMN, 1975, n 58.R. Bacou, Le XVIIIe siècle français, Paris, Edition Princesse, 1976. p 90.G. Brunel, Charles-Joseph Natoire (Nîmes, 1700-Gandolfo, 1777). Peintures, dessins, estampes et tapisseries des collections publiques françaises, cat. exp. Troyes, Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie, Nîmes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rome, Académie de France, mars - juin 1977, notice 73.J. Raspi-Serra, La fascination de l'Antique, Rome 1700-1770, cat. exp. Lyon, Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine, décembre 1998 - mars 1999, notice 84.J.-P. Cuzin, D'après l'antique, cat. exp. Paris, Musée du Louvre, octobre 2000 - janvier 2001, notice 177.

Technical description

  • Charles-Joseph Natoire (Nîmes, 1700-Castel-Gandolfo, 1777)

    Artists drawing in the inner courtyard of the Capitoline Museum in Rome


  • Pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash, white highlights over black chalk lines on tinted grey-blue paper

    H. 30 cm.; W. 45 cm

  • Pierre-Jean Mariette collection; sale, Paris, 1775, part of lot 1301; purchased for the Crown collection.

    INV 31381

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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Additional information about the work

Signed at bottom right, in pen and brown ink: "C. NATOIRE/1759"