L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Élégie romaine - Roman Elegy - by Jacques-Henri Sablet, 1791

In the Protestant cemetery near the pyramid of Gaius Cestius in Rome, two unidentified men - dignified, elegant, soberly dressed in black - pose beside a neoclassical stele. The freshness of the stone's surface and the presence of the two white cloths suggest that the monument has just been cleaned or, conversely, that the carving has only recently been finished. In the background, two shepherds guard their grazing herds in the midst of the ancient tombs and ruins. This quiet and even melancholy painting is an example of  a "conversation piece", a genre long established in Great Britain which the Swiss-born, Paris-trained Sablet helped to popularize in France, where is was known as a "portrait de conversation". This double portrait can also be seen as a souvenir of the Grand Tour.  

In 1791, when this was painted, Sablet had been in Italy for sixteen years. He returned to Paris, along with a pension and artist's lodgings in the Louvre, three years later; the Terror had waned, but the flood of unrest instigated by the French Revolution had by then spread to the Apennine Peninsula.