Konstantinos Volanakis
Frigate in the moonlight
oil on canvas
45 x 74.5 cm
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A frigate with hoisted sails is crossing the turbulent sea. The sailing vessel is tilting sharply and the white-crested waves are crashing violently against a rocky mass. The entire painting has a strong dramatic atmosphere. A deep blue colour is prevalent throughout, in the sky and the sea, while the full moon is shining behind the overcast sky. The moonlight is reflected on the churning wet surface and on the masts, rigging, staysails (triangular sails) and sides, while the rest of the scene is heavily shadowed. The composition is very balanced.

Volanakis loved to paint night landscapes and always rendered them with a particularly dramatic atmosphere. He used colour tones to be able to better express the contrast between light and dark, brightness and shadow. Throughout all periods of his artistic life, he created works with the reflections of the moonlight and the deep darkness of night. It is evident that the difficulty of the pictorial narration, due to the minimal range of colours and the constant changes through chiaroscuro, was seen as a challenge of artistic skill demonstration by the experienced painter.

For example, we mention some of Volanakis’ works depicting night landscapes: from 1869 to 1875 “Night fishing” of the St. Straight Collection, from 1891 to 1895 “Night at the port of Piraeus” of the Papalexandris Brothers Collection (52 x 103 cm), from 1896 to 1907 “Nocturne” of the Bank of Greece (78 x 135 cm), “Nocturne” of the National Gallery, (27 x 41 cm), “Nocturne” of the Koutlidis Collection (24 x 44 cm), and a series of works with the theme “Nighttime burnings”, of the Koutlidis, Konstantinidis and Fragkidis Collection. The collection of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation includes the works: “Frigate in the moonlight”, “Harbour of Volos by moonlight” (1890-1895), “Moonlit harbour of Volos” (1895-1900), “Night seascape”, “Nocturne”, “Pyrophani - Fire Fishing”, “Volos harbour at night”, “Fishing light”, “Fishing boats in the moonlight”.


Exhibition catalogue, Constantinos Volanakis (1837-1907), Municipal Art Gallery of Thessaloniki, 2003, p. 69 .

Marilena Z. Kassimati (curator), Constantinos Volanakis: Poet of the Sea, exhibition catalogue, Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, Hellenic Maritime Museum, Athens 2009, pp. 168, 185.

Ioannis Paloumpis, The Boats of Volanakis, exhibition catalogue, Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, Hellenic Maritime Museum, Athens 2009, pp. 59-68 .

Takis Mavrotas (curator), Constantinos Volanakis: The Father of Greek Seascape Painting, exhibition catalogue, B&M Theocharakis Foundation for the Fine Arts, Athens 2018, p. 98.

Thodoris Koutsogiannis (curator), Constantinos Volanakis: Nostos of the Sea. Artworks from the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation collection, exhibition catalogue, Municipal Art Gallery of Chania, pp. 162-163 .

Sotheby’s / London, The Greek Sale, 14/11/2007.

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