Medium: Oil On Canvas
Size: 81 x 100 cm
Signed: Michallon 1816
Paris, Private Collection, until 1960; Paris, Private Collection, 1995.
Paris, Salon, 1817, no 577; Paris, Musée du Louvre, Achille Etna Michallon (1796-1822), Catalogue 23, reproduced in color p. 68.
Roman Shepherds contemplating the Ruins of a Tomb combines the clarity and light of the neo-classical landscape school, with an indication of nascent romanticism. A Salon critic noted that the artist displayed a certain freedom in avoiding too minute a portrayal of every detail of the landscape while still giving the painting a sense of space and distance. The two shepherds, although echoing compositional devices of Claude and Poussin, are firmly rooted in the nineteenth century. The transience of life and its memorials were of particular interest to a generation shaped by the traumas of the Napoleonic wars, a gargantuan conflict in which a substantial proportion of France’s youth were killed or maimed. This tomb may well represent a “temple of Memory”, the object of solemn contemplation by the two shepherds resting in this otherwise ideal landscape. Thus the artist presents the notion of memorializing the sacrifices which brought about peace and the resulting tranquillity so evident to the viewer.