Popularly known as ‘Robert des Ruines’, Hubert Robert built a lucrative career out of his imaginary ancient towns, cities, museums and gardens in picturesque decay. The Bridge is one such fantastical image, depicting the château in Dieppe populated by figures going about their everyday lives – a woman bathing, men herding livestock across an ancient, imaginary bridge.
Robert’s work was deeply influenced by his time in Rome during the 1750s to 1760s, a place he described as a city of ruins and of everyday life, where decaying mementoes of history (the Forum, the Colosseum) and contemporary life rubbed shoulders. Rome was also in the middle of an archaeological fever, spurred in part by the discovery of the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, sites Robert visited in 1760. The painting represents a memento mori; a reminder, as one critic noted at the time, that everything must die.