French art Collectors in Rome
  • Philibert-Louis Debucourt, attr.
  • Paris 1755 - 1832 Belleville
  • French art Collectors in Rome
  • Watercolour and gouache over pen and black ink,
    framing lines with pen and black ink, on two joined sheets
    of paper, old inscription on the verso:
  • Francesi in Roma che portano via oggetti / d’arte /Debocour
    disgno originale / per fare incisione è una Roma imaginaria
  • 531 × 833 mm

During his lifetime, Philibert-Louis Debucourt was considered a master of colour printing with multiple plates, and these works were so coveted in France that after 1785 he gave up painting in favour of graphic art. In contrast to his competitors, Debucourt only engraved after his own compositions and could make colour appear as an essential element of the print. In this way, he made several hundred, often large-format prints. However, in the tumult of the revolution, he soon lost his artistic momentum. According to an old inscription, Debucourt suggests in the view shown here a vision of Rome around 1800, although the depiction of neither architecture nor sculptural ornament repeats known prototypes, being instead the invention of the draughtsman.

The staffage figures in the foreground unite widely varying social groups in their shared obsession with the relics of ancient grandeur and the cultural yearning of the Grand Tour. The viewer discovers the French émigrés in the right of the image, represented by Madame Dubarry with her famous black page. In the centre, a commissioner of the French Revolution in a red cape and tricorn hat gives directions for the transport of works of art, while on the left the first English travellers to Italy appear as marvelling tourists.