Excavation of the Roman Theatre, Orange, France

mid-1850s, French (?)

The Gere Collection, on long-term loan to the National Gallery, © Private collection 2000. Used by permission

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Contemporary houses have been pulled down in order to reveal the classical ruins of the Roman Theatre in Orange behind and beneath them. Work on this clearance finished in 1856. Tiny figures, who appear dwarfed by the architecture, busy themselves with the Herculean task of clearing up the ruins. The proscenium is on the left and the semi-circular seating, not yet uncovered, is on the right. The artist sketched in the structure of the composition before applying his oil paints, with which he masterfully captures the play of light on the masonry brickwork and plastered walls. The artist is probably French, but may be German or Scandinavian.

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