In the late 1770s, Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Hoüel spent four years traveling through Sicily with a servant, a guide, and occasionally guards, stopping frequently to paint the barren landscapes. This large drawing shows a view of the valley of Agrigento in Sicily, also known as the Valley of the Temples. On the right, overlooking the basin, the chapel of San Biagio, which was built on the ancient ruins of the Temple of Ceres, overlooks the river below. The low vantage point and width of the paper emphasize the sky's breadth and the dramatic setting.
French-born Hoüel became fascinated by the landscape, customs, and antiquities of southern Italy during several long trips to the region. He planned a deluxe travel book on Sicily-then a primitive, unknown island on the edge of Europe-hoping to illustrate its beauty with panoramic views of the countryside and to describe its history, with commentary about the sites he visited. This panorama served as the model for a print in Volume IV of Hoüel's book Le voyage pittoresque des Isles des Sicilie, de Malte et de Lipari (A Picturesque Journey through the Islands of Sicily, Malta, and Lipari).