Vernet and English connoisseurs
This fishing scene by Claude Joseph Vernet, which is about to leave the Italian collection it joined in 1966, boasts a prestigious provenance that has been almost entirely traced.
In his famous Book of Reason, Vernet recorded, in 1745, a commission of four paintings for an "Anglois" – two port views and two countryside landscapes – each represented at a different time of the day. This scene takes place under a late-afternoon orange sky. This type of painting, combining pleasant subjects, truer-than-life light and warm colours, was the basis of Vernet’s success. He even caught the eye of Louis XV, who commissioned him to paint the famous "Ports of France" series. His reputation extended beyond French borders: the French painter's studio in Rome, where he had settled in 1734 and married an Englishwoman named Virginia Parker, was a compulsory stop for any gentleman on the Grand Tour. From 1745 onwards, Vernet painted over 80 works in Rome at the request of English collectors, some paying for up to two, four or six paintings at a time. The identity of the person who commissioned the four-painting series remains unknown, but in 1835 London merchant Josiah Taylor sold it to John Rushout, 2nd Baron Northwick (1769-1859). In 1838, this great connoisseur bought the Thirlestaine estate in Cheltenham to house his collection of over 1,500 works. Open to the public every afternoon, it had works by Leonard, Raphael, Dürer, Titian and Caravaggio. Upon his death, his heirs sold the house and property in an auction that took 22 days. Then the four Vernet paintings joined the Sawbridge-Erle-Drax family collection, whose 1910 sale completed the collection’s dispersion. Galerie Brunner in Paris acquired our fishing scene before it passed through Agnews in London and Acquavella in New York, which sold it to the present Italian owner in 1966.