Roman Shepherds contemplating the Ruins of a Tomb
(Achille Etna Michallon)


Roman Shepherds contemplating the Ruins of a Tomb combines the clarity and light of the neo-classical landscape school with nascent romanticism. A Salon critic noted that the artist displayed a certain freedom, 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.

31 x 39 3/8 inches. 81 x 100 cm
Oil on canvas

PROVENANCE: Paris, Private Collection, until 1960; Paris, Private Collection, 1995; The Matthiesen Gallery, London and Stair Sainty Matthiesen, New York; from whom acquired by a Japanese Institution.


LITERATURE: Philip Conisbee, “Tombs in 18th and early 19th Century Landscape Paintings”, in Neoclassicismo, Atti del Convegno internazionale, London 1971, pp.22 -30.


EXHIBITED: Paris, Salon, 1817, no 577; Paris, Musée du Louvre, Achille Etna Michallon (1796-1822), Catalogue 23, reproduced in colour p. 68.
Matthiesen Gallery & Stair Sainty Matthiesen, ‘The Gallic Prospect’, 1999

Where is It?
Acquired from The Matthiesen Gallery by the Prefectural museum, Shizuoka, Japan
Historical Period
Neoclassicism - 1780-1820
1996-Paintings 1600 - 1912.
26 colour plates, 144 pp. £12 or $20 inc. p.& p.

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Price band
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