The Octavian Gate and Fish Market, 1784
Oil on canvas
Bequest of Henderson Green
Dimensions: Unframed: 63 x 45 in. (160.02 x 114.3 cm)
Framed: 78 1/2 x 61 1/2 x 3 7/8 in. (199.39 x 156.21 x 9.84 cm)
Signatures, Inscriptions and Markings v
Signed and dated (on ledge of second table from left): H. Robert 1784
Collections: Henderson Green
Exhibition History v
Washington, D.C, National Gallery of Art, "American Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting," May 21 - August 20, 2017.
This remarkable and impressive example of the work of Hubert Robert, the eighteenth-century French painter of Italian views, was one of the first Euro- pean masters to enter the Vassar collection, in 1880, less than one hundred years after it was painted. Its arrival was a result of luck and a drowsy art market. It was bequeathed to Vassar by Henderson Green, who stipulated in his will that he wished his executors “to sell my large oil painting providing they can realize therefore the sum of one thousand dollars. If they shall within one year from my decease, be unable to sell said painting ... then in that event, I give and bequeath the said painting to Vassar Female College (23 July 1879).” In the Salon of 1785, Robert exhibited a painting of the Octavian Gate and fish market “5 pieds 6 pouces de haut,” which was acquired by the Marquis de Montesquiou. The painting in question was sold in 1788. The Louvre owns a version of this subject that presumably is the work referred to in the literature. The Vassar painting is likely a second version produced by Robert owing to the popularity of the first. Robert’s interest in the ancient sites in and around Rome was a product of his years of study in the workshop of Giovanni Paolo Panini. When he returned to France in 1765, he painted this subject matter often for an enthusiastic public. Robert later became an early curator of the Louvre under Louis XVI and keeper of the royal pictures. The Octavian Gate combines the grandeur of the imposing portal with its utility as a site for bustling quotidian commerce, evoking for the viewer the sights, sounds, and even smells of a city living comfortably with its history.