In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week: Claude Joseph Vernet, “View of Tivoli, Temple of Sibyl.”
Toward the end of the 18th century, French painter Claude Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) was among the leading landscape artists in Europe. Born in Avignon, Vernet was immersed in art from day one, as his father, Antoine, was also an accomplished painter. From 1734 through 1752, Vernet was in Rome, where he frequently studied the ancient ruins and formed an appreciation for classical landscapes in the tradition of Claude and Gaspard Dughet and Salvator Rosa. While abroad, Vernet met contemporary topographical painter Giovanni Paolo Panini, whose work also influenced Vernet’s aesthetic.
As was customary during “The Grand Tour,” many wealthy English travelers to Rome were eager to capture the beauty of the ancient past through magnificent paintings. Among Vernet’s many English clients and admirers was Richard Wilson, who became a landscape painter himself. Indeed, scholars often credit Vernet with having encouraged Wilson’s artistic endeavors.
Upon his return to France in 1753, Vernet was admitted into the Academy and later received several major commissions for royalty. A series of monumental canvases was completed over a 12-year period and captured the many stunning views of the ports of France.
Characteristic of Vernet’s painting is the artist’s acute sense of atmospheric effects that are balanced with a sense of harmony in luminance. Some have even noted the parallels between Vernet’s tone and the style of Claude Lorrain. The Getty reports that “By 1740, Vernet’s landscape and seascape clients included artists Placido Costanzi and Sebastiano Conca and important Frenchmen, Italians, and especially the English. From 1746 until his death, he regularly sent pictures to the Salon, where they were enthusiastically received.”
Heading to the auction block on March 19 via Brunk Auctions in Asheville, North Carolina, “View of Tivoli, Temple of Sibyl” is an outstanding piece of Grand Tour history, and a lovely Vernet original. Albeit relatively small at 14 x 18 inches, the picture is a lovely view of Rome’s living history — both in the 18th century and today. Perched atop a rocky ledge, the viewer gazes upon an ancient rotunda Temple of Sibyl. Just inside the ornate Corinthian columns, one can faintly decipher a free-standing sculpture. Surrounding the temple are contemporary homes — a wonderful juxtaposition between the past and what was present for Vernet.
Auction estimates are between $80,000 and $120,000. To view the full catalogue, visit Brunk Auctions.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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