As Emilie Beck-Saiello first recognized, this drawing is a study for a picture dated 1775 now at the Château de Compiègne (E. Beck-Saiello, Le chevalier Volaire. Un peintre français à Naples au XVIIIe siècle, Naples, 2004, fig. 8).
The pendant to the picture, dated 1770, is also at Compiègne. A drawing made in preparation for the latter, of the same dimensions and technique as the present lot, is in the Louvre (Réserves. Les suspens du dessin, exhib. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1995-96, no. 35). Both drawings show small differences of detail and staffage from the final compositions.
Compositional drawings by Volaire are rare, and seem only to have been made in the 1760s and early 1770s. Almost none exist for the later part of his career. The two pictures at Compiègne seem to have been made with particular care as several drawings both for the compositions and the individual figures are known.
Largely influenced by Vernet's drawings, with which they are often confused, Volaire's compositional studies can be distinguished by the use of more contrasted shades of wash and by the insertion of numerous small figures who stand out against the landscape rather like ombres chinois.
We are greatful to Emilie Beck-Saiello for confirming the attribution and for her help in cataloguing this lot.