- Pierre-Jacques Volaire
- Vesuvius erupting by moonlight with spectators in the foreground;Vesuvius erupting at night with spectators looking on from the foreground
- the former signed lower centre: le cer Volaire fecit
the latter signed lower centre: le c.er Volaire/ fecit.
- a pair, both oil on canvas
- 22 1/8 by 29 7/8 in; 56 by 76 cm
Sale, Versailles, Palais des Congrés, 1 June 1969, lot 27;
Duke of Savoy, Paris;
Cabinet Blondeau-Bréton, Paris;
With Simon C. Dickinson Ltd., London.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
In the second half of the 18th century Mount Vesuvius entered an intense phase of seismic activity. This coincided with Volaire’s arrival in Naples in 1769 and eruptions occurred regularly in 1771, 1773, 1774, 1775, 1776 and 1779. Volaire seems to have visited and worked en plein air during these eruptions. Many of his earlier images depict figures fleeing the molten lava but by 1794 either the violence of the eruptions had lessened, the local populace had become more accustomed to them or Volaire had adapted his depictions of the natural phenomenon to suit the tastes of his patrons. The present pair, with the elegantly dressed figures marvelling at the spectacle rather than fleeing in fear for their lives, is typical of his work from the late 1780s and 1790s. Volaire painted at least two other known depictions of the 1794 eruptions.1
1. See Literature, cat. nos. P. 122 and P 123, p. 256.