The young Viollet-le-Duc, who scorned the academic system, refused to take the usual path of studying at the École des Beaux-Arts. He was thus ineligible for the Grand Prix de Rome, but wishing, nonetheless, to perfect his architectural knowledge in Italy, he managed to finance his trip with money he had received from Louis-Philippe for a large watercolour, the Banquet des Dames aux Tuileries. And so the young architect stayed in Italy from March 1836 to September 1837.
Viollet-le-Duc was particularly fond of Florence where he stayed on three occasions. During his second visit, he did this drawing from the San Miniato al Monte church, one of his favourite viewpoints. This vast panorama demonstrates his precocious qualities as an illustrator. Moreover, throughout his life he accorded great importance to drawing, a technique he considered to be indispensable to architectural thinking and creativity.
The skilful composition of this view is noteworthy. Behind a very romantic foreground of ruins and vegetation, lies the whole city of Florence, its architecture rendered with great accuracy in a line drawing Although some of the houses are only sketched, one can recognise all the jewels of Florentine architecture: the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, the Campanile, etc., whose "wild" appearance Viollet-le-Duc appreciated.
The vegetation is drawn in such detail that it is possible to recognise all the species. It reveals Viollet-le-Duc's interest in studying nature, which would inspire both his teaching at the Ecole de Dessin in Paris and all his theoretical thinking.
Produced in 1836, this drawing was one of a hundred loose-leaf drawings kept to illustrate a book of the great theoretician's works, published posthumously in 1884 by Comité du Patronage de l'Oeuvre du Maître.