(Nîmes 1700 - Castel Gandolfo 1777)
Landscape with a Horseman and Animals before the Temple of Venus and Roma, Rome
Signed or inscribed and dated C. Natoire 1755 at the lower right.
Inscribed Tempio del Sole o della Luna at the lower centre.
284 x 466 mm. (11 1/8 x 18 3/8 in.)
This drawing depicts the ruins of the huge ancient Roman Temple of Venus and Roma. Situated at the eastern end of the Forum, between the Basilica of Maxentius and the Colosseum, the Temple of Venus and Roma was one of the largest buildings in Ancient Rome. Built (and supposedly designed) by the Emperor Hadrian, on the site of the atrium of Nero’s grandiose palace known as the Domus Aurea, it was begun in AD 121 and dedicated in AD 135, before being completed in AD 141. The temple had two huge cellae, situated back-to-back and facing in opposite directions, with one dedicated to the goddess Roma and facing the Capitoline Hill, and the other, dedicated to Venus, oriented towards the Colosseum. Damaged by fire at the beginning of the 4th century and restored by the Emperor Maxentius, the building was largely destroyed by an earthquake in the early 9th century. Part of the cella of the temple dedicated to Roma was integrated into the late 9th century church of Santa Maria Nova, renamed San Francesca Romana in the 16th century, following an extensive program of rebuilding and renovation.
Standing to the southeast, with his back to the Colosseum, Natoire has here depicted the ruins of the cella of Venus, with its coffered apse dating from the restorations undertaken by Maxentius in AD 307. By the 18th century the structure was erroneously known as the Temple of the Sun and Moon, or Tempio delle Sole e Luna, hence the inscription on the present sheet. This fine landscape drawing has been dated by the Natoire scholars Susanna Caviglia-Brunel and François Wedrychowskito the artist’s first stay in Rome in the 1720s, despite the later dating at the lower right. The present sheet may be identified with a drawing depicting ‘les restes du Temple du Soleil & de la Lune’; one of a group of almost 170 landscape drawings by Natoire acquired en bloc, for a total of 7,030 livres, by the painter and art dealer Augustin Ménageot (c.1700-1784) at the posthumous sale of the contents of the artist’s studio in 1778.
More recently, the present sheet was part of the exceptional collection of architectural drawings, dating from the 16th to the 21st centuries, assembled by the Russian-German architect Sergei Tchoban (b.1962). Much of his collection is today housed in the private Museum for Architectural Drawing in Berlin, established by the Tchoban Foundation in 2013.
E. de Bruyn
His sale, Brussels, Galerie Giroux, 13-15 December 1956, lot 202
Private collection, Belgium
Anonymous sale, Versailles, Hôtel des Chevau-Légers, 20 June 1982, lot 66
Anonymous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 23 March 2007, lot 70
Sergei Tchoban, Berlin.