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36 East 73rd Street New York City, NY 10021 United States 212.517.9176
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$ 18,000

The Forum with the Column of Phocas in Rome

Origin France
Period 19th Century
Materials Black and brown ink and watercolor over preliminary indications in black chalk on cream laid paper; ruled border in brown ink
Dimensions
W. 8.11 in; H. 12.32 in;
W. 20.6 cm; H. 31.29 cm;
Description Signed in ink on the lower middle right: V.J. Nicolle.

Nicolle studied at Jean-Jacques Bachelier’s drawing school, the École Royale Gratuite de Dessins, under Malhortie, a professor architecture and perspective. Making rapid progress in his technique, Nicolle won the grand prix de perspective in 1771, and worked, until 1774, in the studio of the architect and set designer, Louis-François Petit-Radel, who had just returned from Rome and instilled in the young artist a passionate love for the Eternal City. Nicolle eventually traveled to Italy, where he spent a great part of his life, between periodic visits to Paris, local scenes of which he sometimes depicted in watercolor. Eventually arriving in Rome, seemingly for the first time in 1779, he returned, for at least two lengthy stays, from 1787 to 1799 and from 1806 to 1810. Although Rome especially fascinated him and was the inspiration for most of his watercolors, Nicolle traveled throughout the Italian peninsula, documenting, with his pen and brush, the cities of Bologna, Florence, Naples, Venice and Verona. Indeed, he became known as one of the most active and charming chroniclers of the Italian tour. Although never shown at the Salon in Paris, his work was much appreciated and sought after by collectors.
In this watercolor, Nicolle depicts a particularly domestic view of the Forum, in which the Column of Phocas is flanked by modern houses, while the Arch of Titus and the wall of the Farnese’s Palatine Hill garden are visible in the distance. The same site, seen from a different angle and including the Temple of Saturn, was recorded by Nicolle in a less-finished drawing, painted only with gray wash, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (see J. Bean, 15th-18th Century French Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1986, no. 211). A wider view of the site, including the Arch of Septimus Severus, is in the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Nicolle’s practice of depicting the monuments of Imperial Rome amidst scenes of daily life, seemingly as they truly appeared in late eighteenth century Rome, rather than aggrandizing or historicizing the settings, is especially evident in this watercolor, in which the pòpolo minuto are shown amidst their charming houses.
Styles / Movements Old Master, Realism, Trompe l'oeil
Dealer Reference Number EE 52
Incollect Reference Number 151868
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