Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Seascape with Jonah and the Whale
Gaspard Dughet is associated with the introduction of a new type of landscape, the storm scene, though few surviving works treat the theme. Dughet was trained by his brother-in-law Nicolas Poussin and not only adopted his style of landscape but also his name.
The subject comes from the first chapter of the Book of Jonah: a great storm can only be assuaged if the jinxed man leaves the ship; Jonah offers himself and is thrown overboard, where he is swallowed by a great fish; he
spends three days praying within the belly of the fish before God commands it to vomit him up on dry land. The subject had a profound religious significance as a premonition of the sacrifice of Christ, which is why in 1588 Paul Brill was commissioned to paint a fresco of the subject for the Scala Santa – the model for this composition.
Dughet uses the subject as an opportunity to paint chaos and catastrophe, which was perceived as a dramatic expression of the sublime and the awesome power of nature and would have been seen in a more religious light in his day. His inspiration lies in the work of Poussin who was admired for matching weather conditions and human tragedies,
This painting was particularly famous during the 18th century. It was reproduced in several prints and two painted copies.
Text adapted from The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy 1714-1760, London, 2014.