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Northaw CE Primary School and Nursery

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A Shipwreck in Stormy Seas

Claude-Joseph Vernet

This is one of a pair of seascapes, originally commissioned on behalf of the King of Poland, that the British officer and East India Company official Lord Clive (known as Clive of India) bought from Vernet in 1773.


Originally known as ‘Tempête’ (Storm), it depicts a rocky shoreline buffeted by a violent sea storm. Two ships roll in the giant swell, sails tied down or tattered by the turbulent winds and lashing rain, while a third ship lies shattered against the rocks. Figures carry salvaged goods up the shore, while an unconscious woman is laid out on a rock, her friends overwhelmed with despair.


The extreme, turbulent elements depicted here contrast with the tranquil atmosphere of its pair,  ‘Calme’, reflecting ideas fashionable at the time about the beautiful and sublime in nature and art. They are the only great pair of marine views by Vernet in a British public collection.

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