Completed Continental European before 1800, Maritime Subjects 15 More information required regarding the attribution of a Mediterranean port scene

Topic: Subject or sitter

This is more likely to be a capriccio than Genoa which does not have a detached island lying off and where the 16th-century lighthouse (which is also square section not circular) still stands. The lighthouse here is more like that at Naples, (no longer extant) which stood on the angle of a mole, but the rest is not.

The collection note:

'The reference to Genoa has been questioned in the past and so I have decided to remove it from the title. The new title will be simply: ‘Mediterranean Port with Men-of-War’.

There is also some question about the attribution. There are images in the file on the painting, reported to be works by Pierre Puget, but as Pieter has pointed out previously, he is more of a sculptor. I would welcome any further thoughts on the artist.'

Pieter van der Merwe, Maritime Subjects, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Jade Audrey King,

This painting is now listed as being attributed to Pierre Puget (1620–1694).

This amend will appear on the new version of the Your Paintings website in January 2016. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.

If any contributors have new information about this painting we encourage them to propose a new discussion.


Jade Audrey King,

Please note that the Government Art Collection have already requested the title of this work is changed from 'Mediterranean Port with Men o' War (possibly Genoa)' to 'Mediterranean Port with Men o' War'. This change will appear on Your Paintings in July 2015.

This discussion has been started in order to see if any more information about the artist of this painting can be found.


It is impossible to see the detail. Are the flags recognisable? Is that a smoking tower in the centre? A shot tower, maybe? Is it a cloud behind it, or Vesuvius in the mist?

Toby Campbell,

This is certainly a capriccio and these pictures are usually attributed to Pierre puget. As a painter there is a whole group of paintings attributed to him and as a draughtsman there are a few in the Louvre and in Bayonne fully attributed. The close technique in both suggest he may have been the artist of the paintings but as he is never documented as a painter, only as a sculptor and a draughtsman it is difficult to be sure.

Thanks Toby: Puget = 'probleme' on this front as you rightly point out. There's a slightly parallel minor case with Thomas Phillips who was a serious military engineer of the same period and an excellent draughtsman, who may have drawn an engraved'Section through a First Rate Ship' which has that name on it (though a common one), of which there is an oil-painted version that has been attributed to him -though there's no other evidence he ever touched oil as a medium. I don't think the flags will lead anywhere here, though the arms on the ship's stern at front right might do so if identifiable. The smoke from the tower is a feature which I have seen in similar tower images in 17th-c prints (Jacques Callot comes to mind) but I wouldn't attach any more to it than a characteristic feature of this sort of capriccio fortified land/seascape in a general copying tradition from other sources.

Can we now wind this up?The misleading 'Genoa' title has been changed but it would be safer if it was 'attributed to Puget' for the reasons Toby Campbell explains in his last note. If readable images of the flags and arms on the stern can be produced they might add a little in terms of identifying its political/ national links as a capriccio piece, but that's all.

Al Brown,

Re the Puget problem, a number of auction catalogue entries of works by him mention a Professor Klaus Herding as an expert in the artist - as in the link below

Another notes the naval connection: "As an artist, he is primarily known as a history painter, particularly of altarpieces. However, over a hundred drawings are known by him of maritime views, harbours and dockyards. This interest was presumably fuelled by his years from 1643 practising sculpture and painting at the Toulon Arsenal, France's largest naval shipyard. The present picture is one of a number of works attributed to Puget on the basis of comparison with his known drawings."

Prof Herding (now in his 70s, see wrote a thesis on Puget and has clearly maintained and interest but Puget's drawings themselves suggest why this painting probably has no direct connection with him. Like Phillips the engineer whom I've aready mentioned it is no surprise to find a carver is also a fine draughtsman. What we need to see here are examples of marine oil paintings that are certainly by him - if such exist, and the few marine oil images on the web all seem to be no more than 'attributed to', 'circle of' etc , as well as (like this) being very stiffly done decorative items, nothing like Puget's graphic baroque fluidity as a draughtsman -or a painter insofar as one can see from his figure pieces. On this apparent showing even 'attributed to Puget' seems a cop-out for this image: 'circle of' might be the most one could justify before dropping to (perhaps) 'French or Italian school'.

I'd like the PCF to ask the collection for a view: ultimately the authorship attribution is their decision (and ensure they answer in reasonable time). I don't want to cut off a discussion that would reach a better resolution, but experience with Art Detective is showing that they often tend to generate suggestions relating to similar types of material that, while interesting in themselves, lie in parallel to the matters in question without helping resolve them. The 'Group co-ordinator' role is to take a view on when to try and call a halt, if only for interim resolution, otherwise we just have an growing cloud of 'space-junk' in orbit round the issue without coming to a resolution at all. If something new and relevant comes up in future, a new discussion can be started. If it's absolutely conclusive on proving a point, things don't get that far: the PCF simply passes it on to the collection and (if it agrees) the latter changes the record without having further debate.

Jade Audrey King,

The collection has been contacted specifically about this recommendation.

I do not have special knowledge about the period of the vessels in this picture, but it is evident to me, and has been noted by others in this discussion, that the subject cannot be the harbour at Genoa. These buildings are not (and were not) to be found there and the topographical setting is inaccurate. Also, Pierre Puget is an artist of far higher quality than the painter of this work, which, to judge from its tonality must date from the first half of the eighteenth century.

Government Art Collection,

In light of the discussion, we are happy to change it to 'attributed to' for the moment, until further definite information comes to light.