As a student at the Académie de France in Rome, Jean-Honoré Fragonard was encouraged to sketch Roman sites in the open air. In this view of the Palatine Hill's northeast corner, a site also sketched by his friend Hubert Robert and by François Boucher, Fragonard created a powerful visual momentum by coordinating the forward thrust of the corner of the palace, the brilliant sunlight, and the towering cypresses. The dynamic, plunging perspective of walls and trees and the intense light infuse the massive architecture with life.
Fragonard masterfully used both chalk and paper to create the overall effect and the varied small passages. Overall, he worked the red chalk lightly yet broadly, allowing the white of the paper to come through even in areas of deepest shading. His controlled exposure of the paper's whiteness, the constant shift of direction and character in his shading strokes, and his inventive calligraphy describe sunlight, shadow, and texture in diverse ways.