Horace Vernet (French, 1789–1863)
Oil on canvas
23 1/4 x 28 3/8 in. (59 x 72 cm)
The Whitney Collection, Promised Gift of Wheelock Whitney III, and Purchase, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. McVeigh, by exchange, 2003 (2003.42.56)
Vernet, the youngest member of an artistic dynasty, emerged as a highly respected and prolific history painter in the 1820s and 1830s. This turbulent coast scene evokes the shipwreck imagery that his grandfather, Joseph Vernet, popularized in mid-eighteenth-century France; these images catered to the growing taste for the sublime, an aesthetic that celebrated the awe-inspiring power of nature. A direct descendant of such sublime views, Vernet's painterly rendering of the aftermath of a shipwreck reflects the Romantic predilection for violence and pathos.