This painting is one of two autograph reductions of a work executed by Filippo Palizzi in 1864 and exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867, where it was bought by King Victor Emmanuel II (Museo Capodimonte, Naples). This version was commissioned by a French private collector after the acclaim received by the prototype and its subsequent acquisition by the king. A smaller variant was sold at Christie's in 1998, and a third painting, of similar size to the present work, but only attributed to Palizzi, is in the Falmouth Art Gallery, Cornwall.
Although this composition reflects the artist's fervent naturalism, and his favourite animal subject matter, the subject is quite differently treated to the more domestic and bucolic themes which typify Palizzi's oeuvre. Small numbers of farm animals gently herded into pens, stalls and green fields, are instead replaced by an unprecedented variety of species spilling out onto the devastated landscape of Mount Ararat.
In addition, Palizzi's composition breaks with traditional representations of the Deluge. Although the theme of Noah's Ark was popular in the history of art, particularly in Flanders and Holland in the 17th century (see fig. 1), Palizzi's treatment of it is far more Realist in nature, focussing on the denuded and barren qualities of a post-apocalyptic landscape, rather than an Eden-like paradise.