oil on canvas
Unframed: 41 × 55 in. (104.14 × 139.7 cm)
Framed: 51 1/2 × 65 in. (130.81 × 165.1 cm)

The painter Claude Gelée, called “le Lorrain” after his birthplace in France, spent most of his career in Rome working for aristocratic collectors. He specialized in idyllic landscapes that capture subtle effects of light, evoking the ideal state of harmony between man and nature that was believed to have existed in antiquity.

Here, a battle before an ancient seaport disrupts the simple life of shepherds in the countryside. The battle is possibly that between the emperor Constantine and his rival Maxentius on the Milvian bridge near Rome. However, instead of providing specific historic detail that would identify the conflict, Claude emphasized the contrast between human turmoil and nature’s tranquil beauty.


Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
2021-2022: "Afterlives: Resistance and Recovery of Looted Art during the Second World War", The Jewish Museum, New York, NY, August 20, 2021 - January 9, 2022

1982-83 "Claude Lorrain: A Tercentenary Exhibition", National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, October 17, 1982 - January 2, 1983; Grand Palais, Paris, France, Gebruary 15 - May 16, 1983

1982 "France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-Century French Paintings in American Collections", The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. NY May 26 - August 22, 1982

1975 "Nature as Scene: French Landscape Painting from Poussin to Bonnard", Wildenstein's, New York, NY October 29 - December 6, 1975

1967-68 VMFA Artmobile: "The Age of Elegance and Grandeur", August 1967 - June 1968

1963 VMFA Artmobile II, Circuit 3

1961 "Pictures Jefferson Wanted", University of Virginia Museum, Charlottesville, VA, October 20-29, 1961

1954 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, October 17 - November 17, 1954
Earl of Leitrim; by succession to Lady Winifred Renshaw collection, London; Christie’s, London, Renshaw sale, 14 July, 1939, No. 89. [1] By 1941 (Wildenstein & Cie, Paris); June 1941 Karl Haberstock acquired it for Hitler’s planned Führermuseum in Linz. [2] Munich Central Collecting Point (MCCP) records indicate that the painting was recovered at the Alt Aussee salt mine by Allied Forces, arrived at the MCCP on July 19, 1945, and was later restituted to France on April 18, 1946. [3] Restituted to Wildenstein after the war, no dates. By 1960 (Wildenstein & Co., New York); purchased by Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Richmond, Virginia in May of 1960. [4]

[1] This information is published in Pierre Rosenberg’s France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: 1982), pp. 279-80. It is not clear whether Wildenstein purchased the painting at the 1939 Christie’s sale. There is a Renshaw label on back of the painting. Photos in the file.

[2] There is a post-war Allied Forces Special Report on the firm of Wildenstein & Cie within the Wiesbaden Administrative Records (Ardelia Hall Collection) which summarizes the April 1941 Nazi aryanization of the firm in order to prevent the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) from access to Wildenstein’s collection. This report lists this painting as intended for Hitler’s Linz museum, as well as the involvement of Hans Posse, Karl Haberstock, Roger Dequoy and others during this time. The painting is also included in the Consolidated Interrogation Report #4: Hitler’s Linz Museum and Library. Copies in VMFA file. Also there is an online database on the Linz project: http://www.dhm.de/datenbank/linzdb/indexe.html

[3] The painting’s Alt Aussee inventory number was 3593 and its Linz inventory number was 2207. This number is on the back of the stretcher of the painting. Photos in VMFA file. Munich property card no. 4944; 1946 French Receipt for Cultural Objects no.
6a, item no. 337. Copies in VMFA file.

[4] Acquisition date in Registration and Curatorial files, VMFA.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.