The Entrance to the Grotto at Posilipo

Object Details

Title:

The Entrance to the Grotto at Posilipo

Artist/Maker(s):

Claude-Joseph Vernet (French, 1714 - 1789)

Culture:

French

Date:

about 1750

Medium:

Pen and brown ink, with brown and gray wash, over black chalk

Dimensions:

34.4 x 48.9 cm (13 9/16 x 19 1/4 in.)

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Once you are in position you must take as the subject of your drawing or painting what can be encompassed in one glance, without moving or turning your head. . . . You must copy it as exactly as possible, both in form and in color, and do not think you can do better by adding or subtracting.

So wrote Claude-Joseph Vernet in a letter describing his ideas on landscape painting in 1765. In this drawing, produced outside as an exercise in sketching, Vernet followed his own advice. Focusing on the combination of sunlit rock, overgrown trees, and undergrowth that formed the entrance to the murky tunnel opening at the back, he concentrated on a factual representation of the scene, including the fine roadside tomb on the left. The small chink of light in the midst of the shadow marks the other end of the tunnel, giving a sense of its length and breadth.

Known as the Grotto at Posilipo, this tunnel, cut by the Romans to link Naples with the town of Pozzuoli, was a famous tourist attraction in the 1700s. Visitors admired it both for the drama of its tall, dark, and narrow space and as a feat of Roman engineering.

Provenance

Claude-Joseph Vernet, French, 1714 - 1789, his studio

Private Collection (Vienna)

A.A. Renouard

November 20, 1854

M. Poitier (Paris), (an antiquarian bookseller on the quai Malaquais)

March 13, 1966

Private Collection, (sale in Versailles, lot 161)

Private Collection

July 4, 1995

Christie's (London), lot 139

Art Market (London)

Exhibitions
Carmontelle's Transparency: An 18th Century Motion Picture (2000) (March 14 to May 28, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 14 to May 28, 2000
Drawing Italy in the Age of the Grand Tour (February 5 to May 12, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), February 5 to May 12, 2002
Capturing Nature's Beauty: Three Centuries of French Landscapes (July 28 to November 1, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), July 28 to November 1, 2009