Author: Claude-Joseph Vernet (French, 1714-1789)
Medium: Oil on canvas
Location: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
For the eighteenth-century imagination, this representation of a shipwreck was the equivalent of a modern movie, in full technicolor and stereo sound. French artist Claude-Joseph Vernet specialized in these stormy seascapes, often depicting sailing vessels in distress. His patrons and critics loved to imagine themselves within these wild scenes of destruction, battered by wind and spray, feeling the terror of the sublime. Paintings like this one were also thought of as vanitas, reminders of the transitory nature of life on earth. — source
“Suddenly it grows dark, the wind is howling loud,
And heaven, sky, and land appear a frightful jumble.
Toward the stars flies up the ship, then plunges down again,
Sails on washed by waves, with naught but ruin all around,
Here lightning, there thunder, the whole ether storming,
Swell towering up on swell, and cloud on cloud,
The ship is shattered, and I… nothing happened to me,
Because I only watched the storm from shore.”
— Johann Joachim Ewald, Der Sturm, 1755
a tall tree is being felled.
Search, birds, search
for the site of your nests
in this high memory
while it is still murmuring."
— Jules Supervielle