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Joseph Vernet, French, 1714–1789
A Harbor in Moonlight, 1787
oil on canvas
24 x 32 inches
Gift of Christian B. Peper 37:2006

There seems to be a lot of activity in this moonlit scene based on the harbor of the Italian city of Naples. In the foreground, a person kneels in a boat and feeds a large net to two men who stand on the rocky shore. Two others work with nets in the boat. To the left, a group gathers around a fire and large kettle. Out in the harbor, giant sailing ships drop anchor while small rowboats with passengers hover nearby. A tall tower shines its light over the harbor, and moonlight glistens on the water’s calm surface. Vernet, who specialized in painting harbors, captures meticulous details of the people going about their tasks as clouds move gently over the harbor’s calm water.

For younger students:
How many different sources of light can you find in this painting?
Look carefully at the painting and describe the sounds and smells of the scene.

For older students:
Describe some elements in the foreground, middle ground, and background.
The scene in this painting takes place at night; are there other paintings in the packet that also take place at night? How can you tell?

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