This picture dates to circa 1770, when Vernet was at the summit of his career. Although impressive in both size and in quality, the work does not seem to have been previously published. It may correspond to one of the lost paintings by Vernet listed in Ingersoll-Smouse’s Catalogue Raisonné. The description of no. 1460, for example, matches quite closely: ‘Coucher de soleil: Au pied d’un énorme rocher, un turc fumer sa pipe et semble regarder un bâtiment qui s’approche. Plusieurs pécheurs stationnent. Au loin, une montagne et une tour’ (Joseph Vernet: Peintre de Marine 1714-1789. Etude critique suivie d’un catalogue raisonné de son oeuvre peint, Paris, 1926, II, p. 62, no. 1460). It is hard, however, to identify the picture with absolute certainty as Vernet created different versions of the same composition, often with subtle variations.
As is often the case in his later work, Vernet is less concerned with the topography of his compositions. The imagined landscape here focuses on creating a shimmering atmosphere with an expanse of water beneath the glowing sun, the delicate morning mist and nuances of colour throughout the sky. Vernet’s ability to summon up nature’s beauty was praised by Diderot, who wrote that Vernet ‘a volé à la nature son secret’ - he had ‘stolen Nature’s secret’.