Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1714-1789
A Seaport at Sunset, 1749
Oil on canvas, 114 x 164.1 cm (44-7/8 x 64-5/8 in.)
Claude-Joseph Vernet, a native of Avignon, went to Rome in 1734 and over the next decade established himself in Italy as a painter of real and imaginary landscapes based on the local countryside and seacoast. In this painting, the artist depicts an idealized Mediterranean seaport, rather than a specific location, and uses a variety of features from the region. The lighthouse is actually in Naples; the Arch of Constantine is in Rome and the lateen-rigged ship on the right is a type common to the eastern Mediterranean. The large warship fires a salute and the nearby ships fly the Dutch flag, indicating that the painting may have been commissioned by a Dutch client.
Probably bought in Rome, 1749, by the comte de Merle, his sale, Ph. F. Juillot fils, Paris, March 1–4, 1784, lot 22, with a pendant 
Bought Paillet, a dealer (according to a manuscript note against this lot in the copy of the aforementioned sale catalogue, in the library of the National Gallery, London)
Luttrellstown Castle, Clonsilla, Ireland. It has been suggested that the painting was bought about 1800 by Luke White, a member of the Irish Parliament, when he bought the house for the Luttrell family, from whom it passed to the Guinnesses, the last of whom to own it was the Honorable Mrs. (Aileen) Plunket (née) Guinness, her sale, Sotheby’s, London, July 13, 1977, lot 8
Acquired by the Putnam Foundation, 1978
 The Timken painting has been identified (Paris, Musée de la Marine, Palais de Chaillot, 1976–77, Joseph Vernet, 1714–1789, p. 57, no. 19, ill.) as one of a pair that figured as lot 22 in the sale catalogue of pictures belonging to the comte de Merle.