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Hubert Robert

Girls Dancing around an Obelisk


Hubert Robert
Paris 1733 – Paris 1808


Girls Dancing around an Obelisk




Oil on canvas


119.7 x 99 cm


Lady Davis Bequest, inv. 1964.1464


Western Art

Hubert Robert was a master in the art of painting landscapes abounding with ruins and picturesque figures. In this work he blends Neoclassical elements with ancient Egyptian monuments. The Egyptian Expedition and Napoleon’s victory over Mamluk forces at the Battle of the Pyramids on July 22, 1798 had revived an interest in Egyptian motifs. It is hardly surprising, then, that this painting showing the pyramids in Giza dates from the same year. Robert knew the country only through the many published illustrations of the period. The scene here depicts an Egypt of the imagination, where musicians and dancers in classical drapery cavort around the base of an enormous toppled obelisk. Their grandeur emphasized by the small size of the figures, the monuments that stand out against the sky simultaneously evoke a feeling of the sublime and the eternal, as well as an ideal architecture of simple volumes and forms.

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