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Turner was always fascinated by different types of shipping and studies of boats often form part of his visual record of a place. The port of Naples was one of the largest and busiest in Europe and the artist would have seen a wide variety of vessels in and around the city’s coastline. This study depicts a view within the bay with Vesuvius in the distance beyond, and amongst the various craft moored along the shore is a small rowing boat with the name ‘NAPOLI’ painted on the side. The largest vessel in the scene is a felucca, a wooden sailing vessel with a lateen or triangular sail which were a common sight in the seas around Italy. Turner may even have travelled in one himself along the Amalfi coast and the Gulf of Salerno, despite being warned against them by his friend and colleague, James Hakewill (1778–1843), see the Route to Rome sketchbook (Tate D13875; Turner Bequest CLXXI9). Gillian Forrester has suggested that sketches such as this one may have informed the subject and design for a later unpublished Liber Studiorum plate, The Felucca (see Tate D08175; Turner Bequest CXVIII U).1 However, this scene is more reminiscent of Turner’s watercolour vignette illustration, Bay of Naples for Rogers’s Italy (see Tate D27660; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 143). For other studies of shipping see folios 18 verso, 21 verso and 22 (D15943, D15949 and D15950; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 18a, 20a and 21).
Also on this page is an inverted thumbnail sketch which appears to show a distant view of the temples of Paestum. For a more detailed discussion and further studies see folio 19 verso (D15945).
Forrester 1996, p.146.