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A Shipwreck in Stormy Seas
Claude-Joseph Vernet
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This is one of a pair of seascapes, originally commissioned on behalf of the King of Poland, that the British officer and East India Company official Lord Clive (known as Clive of India) bought from Vernet in 1773.

Originally known as ‘Tempête’ (Storm), it depicts a rocky shoreline buffeted by a violent sea storm. Two ships roll in the giant swell, sails tied down or tattered by the turbulent winds and lashing rain, while a third ship lies shattered against the rocks. Figures carry salvaged goods up the shore, while an unconscious woman is laid out on a rock, her friends overwhelmed with despair.

The extreme, turbulent elements depicted here contrast with the tranquil atmosphere of its pair, ‘Calme’, reflecting ideas fashionable at the time about the beautiful and sublime in nature and art. They are the only great pair of marine views by Vernet in a British public collection.

Key facts
Artist Claude-Joseph Vernet
Artist dates 1714 - 1789
Full title A Shipwreck in Stormy Seas ('TempĂȘte')
Series Two Landscapes: A Sunset and a Storm
Date made 1773
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 114.5 x 163.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Acquired with a donation from the American Friends of the National Gallery, London, made possible by a gift from David H. Koch, 2004
Inventory number NG6601
Location in Gallery Room 40
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Two Landscapes: A Sunset and a Storm

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These two paintings, originally known as ‘Calme’ and ‘Tempête’ (Calm and Storm), were commissioned as a pair by Stanislas Augustus, King of Poland, in June or July 1772. However, Vernet instead sold them to the British officer and East India Company official Lord Clive (known as Clive of India), who had been impressed by two similar seascapes the artist had exhibited at the Paris Salon the previous year.

Calme’, which Vernet painted first, shows an imaginary harbour as fishermen return with their catch on a tranquil summer evening. ‘Tempête’ depicts a rocky shoreline buffeted by a violent sea storm. Two ships roll in the giant swell while another lies shattered against the rocks.

These are two of Vernet’s greatest marine paintings and the type of work for which he was most famous in his day. They are the only great pair of marine views by him in a British public collection.

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