Roman Soldiers in ancient Catacombs
  • Victor-Jean Nicolle
  • Paris 1754 - 1826
  • Roman Soldiers in ancient Catacombs
  • Pen and brown ink, on laid paper,
  • inscribed with pencil on the old mount:
    Columbarium near St. Sebastian
  • 198 × 135 mm
Colnaghi, London about 1818
Jean Camille Jammes, Paris (1888-?), (Lugt 1430a),
his sale with Thesmar, Paris 1953

On sojourns to Italy, each lasting several years, between 1779 and 1810, Nicolle created a large number of mostly small-format watercolours with the most famous views of the important cities, such as Rome and Naples. He sold these with increasing success as souvenirs to the early travellers from Northern Europe on the Grand Tour (see also the last page of this catalogue).

Alongside these colourful landscape views, the impressive remains of antiquity fascinated Nicolle as an architectural draughtsman, and he sought to capture their atmosphere in a few monochromatic ink drawings. These works contain striking stylistic parallels with the studies of his younger compatriot François Marius Granet (1775-1849), who also sojourned in Rome from 1802 to 1819. Both artists depicted on their small sheets, done in brown wash, partially-lit interiors with complicated perspective, the proportions elevated even further through a few figures.

The provenance of the sheet shown here can be traced back to an album that was assembled in London during Nicolle’s own lifetime by a member of the Colnaghi family. It contained roughly 240 drawings and watercolours by the artist and later entered the Paris collection of J. C. Jammes, who particularly esteemed French works of the eighteenth century. The album was only broken up for the sale of his estate in 1953, in order to sell off the individual drawings.