The J. Paul Getty Museum

Mediterranean Harbor Scene

Object Details


Mediterranean Harbor Scene


Pierre-Jacques Volaire (French, 1729 - 1799)




about 1763


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



96.5 × 134.6 cm (38 × 53 in.)

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Object Description

One might say that he begins by creating a place, and that he keeps men, women, and children in store to populate it, just as one might settle a colony. Then he creates the weather for them, and a sky, a season, a fortune or misfortune, as his fancy strikes him.

So wrote Denis Diderot about Claude-Joseph Vernet in his 1765 Salon review. Vernet's popular views of harbors and ships led to frequent copying and imitation, especially by a group of French artists working in southern Italy who followed his lead in specializing in Mediterranean harbor scenes.

In a manner characteristic of Vernet's followers, this painting's peaceful arrangement balances a delicate tree and massive building at the left with an open view on the right. Human architectural constructions frame the intermingled sea and sky. The artist enlivened the seascape with picturesque figure groupings, each engaged in a routine, yet often amusing, activity from daily life.


Duc de Valentinois (Paris, France)

- 1807

Mathison [sold, Mathison sale, Christie's, London, February 20, 1807, lot 50, possibly to Peter William Baker.]

possibly 1807 - 1815

Peter William Baker, died 1815 (London, England; Ranston, Dorset, England), by inheritance to his wife, Mrs. Peter William Baker, 1815.

1815 - 1816

Mrs. Peter William Baker, died 1816 (London, England; Ranston, Dorset, England), by inheritance to Edward Baker, 1816.

1816 - 1825

Sir Edward Baker, 1st Bart., died 1825 (Ranston, Dorset, England), by inheritance to Edward Baker, 1825.

1825 - 1877

Sir Edward Baker, 2nd Bart., 1806 - 1877 (Ranston, Dorset, England), by inheritance to Talbot Hastings Bendall Baker, 1877.

1877 - 1900

Sir Talbot Hastings Bendall Baker, 3rd Bart., 1820 - 1900 (Ranston, Dorset, England), by inheritance to Randolf Littlehales Baker, 1900.

1900 - 1959

Sir Randolf Littlehales Baker, 4th Bart., 1879 - 1959 (Ranston, Dorset, England), by inheritance Mrs. William Henry Gibson Fleming, 1959.

1959 - 1960

Mrs. William Henry Gibson Fleming (Ranston, Dorset, England) and Major William Henry Gibson Fleming (Ranston, Dorset, England) [sold, Gibson Fleming sale, Sotheby's, London, March 23, 1960, lot 49, through Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. to J. Paul Getty.]

1960 - 1976

J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976 (Malibu, California; Sutton Place, Surrey, England), upon his death, held in trust by the estate.

1976 - 1978

Estate of J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976, distributed to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978.


Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 130, ill.

Beck-Saiello, Émilie. Pierre Jacques Volaire, 1729-1799 (Paris: Arthena, 2010), pp. 53, 54, 198, no. P.1, ill.