Lot 10
  • 10

Claude-Joseph Vernet

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Claude-Joseph Vernet
  • A Mediterranean coastal scene at sunset with figures fishing in the foreground
  • signed and dated lower centre: J. Vernet f/1765 and bears signature lower right: Vernet/1765
  • oil on canvas


Acquired in the 1820s by an ancestor of the present owner;
Thence by direct family descent.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Claude-Joseph Vernet. Mediterranean Coastal Scene. Signed at lower centre and also at lower far right (added later), dated 1765. This painting has a firm old stretcher and fairly recent, strong lining. There has also been a fairly recent restoration, with some of the craquelure in the sky muted, including some, presumably more distinct, lines of craquelure along the horizontal crossbar lines on the right side. There are two or three patches of retouching in the sky at centre left, visible under ultra violet light, although there does not seem in a raking light to have been any break in the canvas weave to suggest actual loss or damage. One quite wide retouching in the sky is just by the top of the central rock, and this left side of the central rock is the only area in the picture to have some thinness. One other patch of retouching is close to the centre of the left edge just above the horizon, with another minor patch just above in the sky. Elsewhere throughout the paint is rich and unworn. The vivid colour and even texture has been beautifully preserved overall. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Painted at the apex of the artist’s career in 1765, at the same as his famous series of the Ports of France, this Coastal landscape at sunset has not been seen on the open market for nearly two hundred years.

Although this canvas has enjoyed an unbroken provenance in the same family for nearly two hundred years, its earliest history remains unknown. Despite its evident quality and the presence of both signature and date, it cannot be identified with any certainty with any untraced works recorded in Vernet's Livre de raison or Account Book from that year. The painting was one of at least two canvases by Vernet acquired in the 1820s by a forebear of the present owner. Another such, a celebrated composition entitled Les Baigneuses, signed and dated 1759, had graced the collections of both the Duc de Choiseul and the Prince de Conti, and was sold in these Rooms on the 5 July 1995, lot 83. Both canvases were in all probability bought in England, and probably London, at much the same date. Vernet's work enjoyed enormous popularity with English (and indeed all European) collectors, both Grand Tourists visiting Europe before the French Revolution, and those buying his pictures when numbers became available on the market afterwards. An example of one such work, also from 1765, is the Shipwreck commissioned by Sir Henry Hoare in October 1765 and now at Stourhead.1

In 1765, when Vernet painted this picture, his fame and reputation was probably at its height, for he had just returned to Paris after a decade of travelling around France for his celebrated series of the Ports of France, commissioned by Louis XV in 1753. Indeed the last of these, the Vue du port de Dieppe was exhibited in the Paris Salon that same year. It is quite possible that the present painting was shown alongside it, for Vernet exhibited under no. 76 a group of paintings for which we have no descriptions. It certainly epitomises Vernet's work of this date, with the design constructed around the principal compositional elements of the man of war, the rocky bluffs, the ruined tower, and the foreground occupied by fishermen or other spectators. These were all motifs that Vernet had developed as a result of his twenty-year stay in Italy between 1734 and 1753. A good example from the same year is the Mediterranean harbour scene sold in these Rooms, 4 July 2007, lot 64. The massive rocky bluff which dominates the centre of the painting is slightly less usual, but can be found in works going back as far as the 1740s, such as that inscribed and dated Romae 1747 sold in these Rooms, 10 April 2003, lot 100. 

The attribution to Vernet was confirmed by the late Dr. Philip Conisbee following first-hand inspection in 1985, and has more recently kindly been confirmed by Dr. Emily Beck-Saiello on the basis of photographs. 

1. Inv. no. 732117. F. Ingersoll-Smouse, Joseph Vernet. Peintre de Marine 17141789, Paris 1926, vol. II, p. 11, no. 831, reproduced fig. 215.