Sunday, August 06, 2006

Who is Hubert Robert?

In each garden the moonlight, like Hubert Robert, scattered its broken staircases of white marble, its fountains, its half-open gates. Its light had destroyed the Telegraph Office. All that remained of it was one column, half shattered but still retaining the beauty of an immortal ruin. (Davis translation, pg 117)
Davis is pretty good at making note of people and places, but not this time. I should have suspected that Hubert Robert was a French artist. He lived 1733-1808, was prolific and apparently quite the man of daring adventures. He got caught in the Terror and was supposed to be guillotined, but lucky for him, some other fellow was mistaken for him and Robert got to keep his head. He also knew Voltaire who had him paint the decorations of his theater.

I suppose Proust's contemporary audience would know exactly who Robert was. Me, I am grateful for Google. But now that I know who he was, I think it interesting how Proust uses Robert's art as a basis for description of the Telegraph Office. It might have looked something like this:

Okay, maybe nothing so dramatic, but it does make the Telegraph Office seem more than it is, don't you think?


Blogger AC said... has a good index of images (by artist), with the images that Proust talks about. It's very useful.

3:33 PM  
Blogger Dorothy W. said...

How interesting! Thanks for pointing this out.

3:35 PM  

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