This painting dates from Hubert Robert’s youth when he was living and working in Rome.
The ordinary people of Rome have settled unselfconsciously in the ruins, which are being used for mundane purposes. These unexpected scenes, which he chanced upon during a walk in the Eternal City, struck the painter’s imagination and became a permanent part of his thematic repertoire.
His contemporaries would later interpret them as an illustration of the ravages wrought by time which inexorably destroys the signs of the grandeur of past civilisations. But at the time of their creation, the young artist was simply enjoying himself and taking pleasure in painting.
We see an ancient monument transformed into a laundry where linens are bleached. The strong contrast between shade and light, the large draperies and the vertical lines of the openwork fences punctuate the composition. The steam from the fire which make the air quiver provides the material for a dazzling piece of painting.
M. A. P.