While living in Italy, Robert developed a fondness for classical architecture, making countless drawings that served as the basis for paintings and prints for decades after he returned to Paris. Denis Diderot (1713–1784), a French philosopher and art critic, nicknamed the artist “Robert of Ruins” due to Robert’s enduring interest in the subject. A quaint commentary on the passage of time, this drawing portrays the activities of contemporary life among the weathered remains of an ancient Roman building. Despite the traditional title of the drawing, there is no evidence that such ruins ever existed at the Villa Pamphili. The towering columns supporting a decorative frieze may instead derive from the Roman Forum’s Temple of Saturn.