Lot 61
  • 61

Pierre-Jacques Volaire

150,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • Pierre-Jacques Volaire
  • A nocturnal Mediterranean coastal scene, with Vesuvius in the background
  • bears signature lower right: J. Vernet 1780
  • oil on canvas


Earl of Strafford, London;
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 20 July 1955, lot 51 (as Claude-Joseph Vernet);
There acquired by Thos. Agnew and Sons Ltd., London;
By whom sold to M. Knoedler & Co., New York, February 1956 (as Claude-Joseph Vernet);
From whom purchased by the family of the current owner.


London, Thos. Agnew and Sons Ltd., London, Autumn Exhibition of Fine Paintings by Old Masters, 26 October-3 December 1955, no. 23 (as Claude-Joseph Vernet). 


B. Nicholson, "Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions", in The Burlington Magazine, December 1955, vol. 97, p. 402-403 (as Claude-Joseph Vernet);
E. Beck Saiello, Pierre Jacques Volaire dit le Chevalier Volaire, Paris 2010, p. 261, cat. no. P.135 (as location unknown).


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 work is in lovely condition. The canvas has a very old thin lining. The paint layer is stable, although some cracking is slightly visible. The painting has become slightly dirty, but it is certainly very attractive as is. However, the work if cleaned would brighten and more distinction would be acquired between the cool colors on the right and the warm colors in the lower left. There are a few spots of retouching in the upper right and in the sea beneath the fishing nets that have discolored, but the condition of the painting is clearly wonderful.
"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

This glowing nocturnal scene is a mature work by Volaire, painted after he had entered independent practice following his apprenticeship with Vernet circa 1755 to 1764. After a brief spell in Rome, Volaire settled in Naples in 1769 and was to remain there for the following two decades. During this time he showed himself to be the most able and inventive of Vernet's followers, capable of adapting rather than simply imitating the successful designs of his master. 

The picture was sold in 1955 with its pendant (location unknown, see Literature, E. Beck Saiello 2010, cat. no. P.134), as a late work by Vernet, and was only recently re-attributed to Volaire, datable to circa 1765-1770.1 A number of preparatory sketches for various figures are extant: a drawing of the female figure seated to the left of the fishing net is located in the Museo della Certosa di San Martino, Naples (E. Beck Saiello 2010, cat. no. D. 39); a sketch for the fishing female atop the rock formation is in the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco (E. Beck Saiello 2010, cat. no. D. 70); as well as a study for the man lying on his stomach looking behind, located in a private collection, Linz (E. Beck Saiello 2010, cat. no D.152). 

1. See Literature, E. Beck Saiello 2010, p. 261.