Lot 60
  • 60

Claude-Joseph Vernet

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Claude-Joseph Vernet
  • L'arc en ciel: an italianate coastal view with a rainbow, fisherman, and peasants at an inlet in the foreground, a shipwright's yard beyond
  • signed, inscribed, and dated lower left: 'Joseph. Vernet. f/Romae 1749' (ae linked)
  • oil on canvas


Charles-Louis, Comte de Merles de Beauchamp, by 1784;
His sale, Paris, A.J. Paillet, 1-4 March 1784, lot 22 (sold with pendant for 9,500 Livres, 'The two pictures, done in Italy, and whose details are drawn so precisely, could by their charm of colour, hold their own next to the finest Claude').;
Claude Tolozan, by 1801;
His sale, Paris, A.J. Paillet, 23-24 February, 1801, lot 125 (2,400 Francs to Martin Laporte);
Galerie Delessert by 1869;
Their Sale, Hôtel Delessert, Paris, 15-18 March 1869, lot 100 (4,400 Francs to Mr. Paul Calley);
M. Leconte by 1916;
By whom sold, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 20 June 1916, lot 24;
M. Margossian by 1935;
His sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 21-22 November 1935, lot 23;
Thence by descent;
Anonymous Sale, London, Christie's, 16 December 1998, lot 71 (where purchased by the present collector for 1,809,782 USD).


L. Lagrange, Joseph Vernet et la Peinture au XVIIIème siècle, Paris 1864, p. 29 (wrongly dated to 1739);
F. Ingersoll-Smouse, Catalogue Raisonné de l'oeuvre peint de Claude-Joseph Vernet, Paris, 1926, vol. I, p. 55, no. 245.



The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting is well restored and should be hung in its current condition. The paint layer is cleaned. The canvas has an old glue lining that has been reinforced in a few areas on the extreme edges, but is sufficiently supporting the paint layer and canvas throughout. The condition of the paint layer itself is remarkably good. This is a picture from an early period for Vernet, and the paint layer is clear and well-articulated. There are no damages or restorations of any consequence at all. This is a work that withstands the closest scrutiny, and it is in unusually good condition.
"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

L'Arc en Ciel, dated 1749, was executed during Vernet's Italian period, in which the artist's most expressive work was conceived. The majority of Claude-Joseph Vernet's oeuvre during the twenty years he lived in Italy explores mankind's precarious relationship with nature. Between 1734 and 1753, Vernet's marine compositions either celebrate the sea as a serene passage ripe with bountiful harvest; or demonstrate man's fragility in the face of nature's wrath, manifested in tumultuous swells and ominous skies. L'Arc en Ciel is unique within the spectrum of Vernet's expressive capacity as it manages to portray a balance between these two narratives. In the foreground fishermen haul in the day's catch on a rough and uneven coastline. This scene recedes into an expansive skyscape highlighted by the rainbow that arcs high into the clouds, seeming to chase the retreating storm out of the composition. L'Arc en Cielsurely must rank amongst one of the most romanticizing depictions of the Mediterranean coast in Vernet's body of work.

L'Arc en Ciel and its pendant, Seaport at Sunset, were both commissioned by Vernet's close friend and patron the Comte de Merles, Charles-Louis. Vernet's Livres de Raison does not record a sale for these two paintings in the year which the pictures are signed (1749), yet Vernet's diary reveals the close relationship between artist and patron. The Comte de Merles is described by Vernet's biographer, Leon Lagrange, as having met Vernet in Rome and the two spent time hunting together in October, November and December of 1749. The Comte later commissioned another pair of marine scenes (present location unknown, see L. Lagrange, op. cit., p. 350) from Vernet in 1772. .

The March 1784 sale of the Comte's impressive collection of paintings, furniture and works of art (in which L'Arc en Ciel was lot 22) was a notable event with three of the pictures being purchased for King Louis the XVI. L'Arc en Ciel and Seaport at Sunset  were probably separated soon after the sale of the Merles collection by Julliot and Paillet in Paris. Seaport at Sunset became part of the collection of Mr. Luke White of Luttrellstown, Ireland. It was then bought by the Guiness family, and passed from them to the Hon.Mrs. Plunkett. In 1976, Seaport at Sunset was exhibited in London (see P. Conisbee, catalogue of the exhibition, Claude Joseph Vernet 1714-1789, London, 1976). 

Claude-Joseph Vernet's career is truly representative of the spirit of the Grand Tour. He was born in Avignon and at the age of twenty, like most promising young artists of the 18th century, he traveled to Rome to study antiquity. In Rome, Vernet was granted access to L'Academie de France where he was encouraged to pursue ladnscape painting by the institution's director, Nicolas Vleughels. As a young artist, Vernet would have been exposed to the vedute of Claude Gellée, Salvator Rosa and Gaspard Dughet. He joined the workshop of Adrien Manglard, a successful French marine painter living in Rome. Like Manglard, Vernet;s established a burgeoning reputation as a masterful painter of marine scenes amongst European diplomats and nobility making the Grand Tour. While living in italy Vernet's often travelled from Rome to Naples, and although the port of L'Arc en Ciel is not identified by the artist, the topography visible is suggestive of the Neapolitan coast, and both the picture and its pendant are referred to as views of the port of Naples in the 1784 Merles sale catalogue. The late 1740s, during which L'Arc en Ciel was painted, is widely considered the  Vernet's most bold and creative and works from this stage in the artist's career are highly sought after. After twenty years in Italy, Vernet was summoned back to France in 1753 for the Royal commission of the Ports de France, where he would spend the remainder of his life.