Rarely seen in public, yet one of his greatest achievements, Claude-Joseph Vernet's outstanding View of Avignon from the right bank of the Rhône (est. £3-5 million) will be one of the highlights of Sotheby's
London Old Master and British Paintings sale on 3rd July 2013. The painting, which was last offered at auction more than 200 years ago and exhibited only once since then (nearly 60 years ago)i, will be on show in Paris 11th-12th.
The work is Vernet's only recorded painting of his birthplace, the city of Avignon, and was described by noted art historian Giuliano Briganti in 1970 as one of Vernet's finest views. Executed in 1756, the painting was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1759 and was engraved by Pietro Antonio Martini in 1782. In the late 18th century the painting passed through a number of distinguished French collections including the celebrated collection of Pierre Louis Paul Randon de Boisset (1708-1776), Receveur général des Finances, and that of Ange-Joseph Aubert (1736-1785), Joallier de la Couronne. When compiling her seminal catalogue of Vernet's works in 1926 Florence Ingersoll-Smouse traced the painting only to 1790, its subsequent history unknown, and reproduced it via Martini's engraving. It remained "lost‟ until it was discovered in 1954 in a private collection near Bristol and sold by Arthur Tooth & Sons in London.
The view of Avignon is taken from the banks of the Rhône and the city is instantly recognisable by its medieval walls, the magnificent Papal Palace which dominates the skyline and which is rendered in precise detail, and the ruins of the famous 12th century Pont Saint-Bénezet to the left. The scene is bathed in a rich evening light that is the hallmark of Vernet's greatest vedute.
Andrew Fletcher, Senior Director and Head of Old Master Auction Sales at Sotheby's London commented: Thanks to its rare appearances in public, and to its having passed through only a handful of collections in its 250 year history, this superb work is preserved in impeccable condition. Its reappearance is not just of great significance to scholars of Vernet himself, but also to the study of 18th century view painting. We are delighted to exhibit the work to collectors and the public in Paris and in London in advance of its sale in July.
i The work was exhibited by Arthur Tooth and Sons of London in 1954.