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Pierre-Jacques Volaire
Italian, Naples, about 1770 - 1790
Oil on canvas
26 x 37 3/4 in.
78.PA.234

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Pierre-Jacques Volaire's sensitivity to detail enriches this study of a "modern" villa built on the site of ancient Roman ruins. Volaire's scene recalls the fête galante, a fanciful vision of well-dressed men and women enjoying themselves in the open air popularized by Antoine Watteau earlier in the century. Volaire's fluent execution and lyricism fit his subject's romantic, light-hearted subject. The groups of figures are differentiated by subtle variations, from silhouetting the figures in the boat on the left to illuminating the fishmongers and their customers in the center.

By the time he painted this picture, Volaire, who settled in Naples in 1769, had become a one-man assembly line for paintings of Mount Vesuvius in moonlight. These theatrical works exemplified the eighteenth century's fascination with the sublime: a noble and lofty feeling of awe inspired by natural phenomena.

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