Garden of an Italian Villa, 1764
oil on canvas
93.5 x 133 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 39760)
Robert came to Rome as a young artist, staying there for eleven years. He painted this the year before he left to return to Paris. A villa meant escape from the pressures of the city, a life of pleasure rather than business. Robert emphasizes the informal, picturesque aspects of the scene: nature and humanity are in harmony, but the garden is on the verge of being overgrown. The trees planted to shade the stairs, now lean precariously, dominating the image and setting the tone. The skies suggest a storm, but the scene is calm. The small figures are incidental to the composition - enlivening it, but not characters in any story. Inspired by the gardens of Villa Negroni, the artist combines the real and the imaginary, introducing elements drawn from many Roman sites into his picture.