Architectural Capriccio with Roman ruins
  • Victor-Jean Nicolle
  • Paris 1754 - 1826
  • Architectural Capriccio with Roman ruins
  • Watercolour over pen and black ink, framing lines with pen and ink, on paper
  • signed with pen and black ink on the lower left: V. J. Nicolle
  • 190 × 135 mm

After Victor-Jean Nicolle successfully received a degree in drawing at the École royale in Paris with a prize for his architectural studies in 1771, he was repeatedly drawn back for many years to Italy, where he apparently found his artistic home. Nicolle was above all fascinated by the monumental architectural remains from ancient Rome, which he recorded in numerous drawings and watercolours. Soon, he realized that he could capitalize on this penchant as well, and found among the ever-numerous Grand Tour travellers a well-funded audience. In the process, Nicolle developed an entirely unique style and technique with a highly reduced colour scheme and sophisticated perspective.

Even the smallest-formatted works were fastidiously composed and were utterly beloved by the first Tourists. Even though the watercolours’ soft light suggests that they were created on-site, the majority of these works surely originated afterwards in the atelier, taken from cursory studies in sketchbooks. To enliven his views and to clarify the proportions, Nicolle invariably inserted figurines into his depictions. He also never forgot, even in those tiny drawings, to sign his name neatly with a pen.

We can identify Trajan’s column from 113 CE in the background of the present sheet, surrounded by archaizing fantasy architecture and an atmospheric ruin in the foreground.