Claude Joseph Vernet was a leading exponent of French 18th-century landscape and marine painting. In 1734, he travelled to Rome to study the works of landscape and maritime painters.
This scene shows a raging fire on the river Tiber, probably painted while Vernet was in Italy. The brilliant colours of the fire and its reflection are effectively rendered. In the foreground are survivors from the moored ship being rescued. Buildings on the bank of the river are lit up by the light of the fire. The billowing flames and smoke and the agitated waters can be easily imagined, and the roaring of the fire and the shouting of the people almost ring in your ears.