Villa Mondragone at Frascati
  • Hubert Robert
  • Paris 1733 - 1808
  • Villa Mondragone at Frascati, 1762
  • Red chalk on paper, on an old mount,
    framing lines with pen and brown ink,
  • signed and dated with red chalk lower right: H. Roberti 1762,
  • 437 × 337 mm
Pierre-Jean Mariette, Paris (1694-1774),
his mount with a cartouche and the artist´s name
Lucien Goldschmiedt Inc., New York
Philip Hofer, Boston (1898-1984)
Myron A. Hofer 2nd
sale Sotheby’s London, July 6, 1992, lot 88 (ill.)
Pierre Rosenberg: Les dessins de la collection de
Pierre-Jean Mariette,
Paris 2011,
vol. II, no. F2729, p. 1038

In 1754, Hubert Robert received a scholarship as a pensionnaire of the French academy in Rome, where he would gather lifelong inspiration over the next ten years both from the art of antiquity and from the work of Piranesi and G. Paolo Pannini’s paintings of ruins.

In 1762, Hubert Robert left the narrow confines of Rome with a few friends in order to escape a renewed outbreak of the plague. The artists found lodgings in the outskirts of Frascati and used their time for countless studies of the surrounding landscape and feudal estates.

The Villa Mondragone stood on a hill outside of the town. It derived its name from the striking location, as well as from the depictions of dragons all over the building, the emblem of the noble Boncompagni family. The builder, Cardinal Marco Altemps, had wanted thus to honour Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni, during whose reign (1572-85) the villa was erected. The famous Cardinal Scipio Caffaretti-Borghese (1577-1633) acquired the estate in 1613 and further expanded the complex of buildings.

In the nineteenth century, the Jesuits took over the villa and established a boarding school there and later a seminary. Hubert was apparently less interested in the depiction of the characteristic main building, than in a more intimate scene of nature. With the suggestion of the classical arcade in the background, he endowed the view with the transient atmosphere of antiquity. The erstwhile ambition of the architecture is broken by the rural idyll of the foreground, namely a strawroofed hut with a young resting shepherd.