Stanfield was a versatile and prolific painter of landscapes and marines. He began his artistic career as a scene-painter in the theatre, and then established himself as one of the leading painters of the age. During the 1830s he frequently travelled on the Continent and made many paintings and illustrations of European scenery.
Mount Vesuvius, near the shore of the Bay of Naples, is the only active volcano on the European mainland. It had long been a favourite tourist site.