Clérisseau and the fleeting glory of the world

Parisian architect and painter Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721-1820) lived in Rome for over fifteen years. He moved to the Académie de France in 1746 after winning the prestigious Prix de Rome, left in 1757, but came back in 1762 for another five years.

This was a very productive period for the French artist; a man of his times, he was charmed by the picturesque city ruins that so many intellectuals in his day were fascinated by: Rome was a must-see stop in the 18th-century Grand Tour, for young European aristocrats on their journey of cultural initiation.

Hence he set off with paper and a foldable seat, and portrayed what was left of the city’s imperial glory. He achieved such fame that he was entrusted with decorating father Le Sueur’s cell in the Trinità dei Monti convent. In the erudite monk’s room, Clérisseau painted a crumbling Pantheon – to focus on while meditating on the fleeting nature of the glory of the world.

Here is a selection of his Roman paintings.


Capriccio with obelisk, ca. 1760


Capriccio with statue of Terpsichore




Pantheon interior, 1750-1755

Forum of Nerva

Forum of Nerva

Grotto of Nypha Egeria,

The Nymphaeum of Egeria


Interior of Villa Madama

monastery (now convent) of St. Trinita del Monte, Rome, by Charles-Louis Clerisseau

Decoration for the Convent of Trinità dei Monti

Waterfall in Tivoli

Waterfall in Tivoli


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