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Claude-Joseph Vernet (Avignon 1714 – 1789 Paris), View of the Ponte Rotto, Rome. Estimate $200,000-300,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.

oil on canvas, unlined, 25 1/4  by 34 in.; 64 by 86.5 cm.

PROVENANCE: Probably Godefroy Brossais Saint-Marc (1803-1878), Archbishop of Rennes;
His sale, Paris, Lainné, 14 March 1864, Lot 9 (with a pendant, lot 8, depicting a View of the Castel Sant’Angelo).

LITERATURE: Probably F. Ingersoll-Smouse, Joseph Vernet, Peintre de Marine, Paris 1926, vol. II, p. 92, cat. no. 1965.

NOTE: We are grateful to Emilie Beck for confirming this painting to be a work by Vernet, based on firsthand inspection.

This serene view of the Ponte Rotto and Tiber River is probably identifiable with the painting at one time in the collection of Godefroy Brossais Saint-Marc (1803-1878), Archbishop of Rennes (see Provenance) which was sold with its pendant, a View of the Castel Sant’Angelo, in 1864.  Its composition is similar to a painting of the same subject in the collection of the Musée du Louvre (inv. 8348) which also has a pendant of the Castel Sant’Angelo (signed and dated 1745).

The so-called Ponte Rotto (or “broken bridge”) is what remains of the ancient Pons Aemilius, originally built in the 2ndcentury BC.  Today there is only one arch remaining, but in Vernet’s time three arches were still intact.  The view looks across the Tiber to the East bank, with the Romanesque campanile of Santa Maria in Cosmedin seen in the distance and, along the river, the arched outlet of the Cloaca Maxima, the ancient Roman sewer system.  Vernet uses an almost tonal palette, bathing the scene in a beautiful silvery light.  This View of the Ponte Rotto, like the Louvre version, has an informal quality and immediacy that seem to anticipate Corot’s plein air paintings of Rome in the 19th century.1

1.  See P. Conisbee, in Claude-Joseph Vernet 1714-1789, exhibition catalogue, London 1976, under cat. no. 11.

Sotheby’s. Master Paintings: Part I. New York | 29 janv. 2015, 10:00 AM