Joseph Mallord William Turner

Bay of Naples, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’

c.1826–7

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Gouache, graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 236 x 306 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D27660
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 143

Catalogue entry

This vignette appears as the head-piece to the fortieth section of Rogers’s Italy, also entitled ‘Naples’.1 It was engraved by Edward Goodall, who was one of the most prolific and skilled interpreters of Turner’s designs.2 This charming scene shows the Bay of Naples on a clear day with several boats gliding along its calm water. The city of Naples unfolds along the distant shore, while the towering form of a gently smoking Mount Vesuvius rises in the background.
In the opening verses of this section which appear just below this vignette, Rogers praises the heavenly beauty of the city and its natural surroundings:
This region, surely, is not of the earth.
Was it not dropt from heaven? Not a grove,
Citron or pine or cedar, not a grot
Sea-worn and mantled with the gadding vine,
But breathes enchantment. Not a cliff but flings
On the clear wave some image of delight,
Some cabin-roof glowing with crimson flowers,
Some ruined temple or fallen monument,
To muse on as the bark is gliding by.
(Italy, pp.189–90)

Turner’s view of the Bay echoes the idyllic scene described above. The thin plume of smoke that emerges from the peak of Vesuvius alludes to its destructive potential without marring the carefree and exuberant mood of this light-filled scene. Although Vesuvius is most famous for destroying the Roman city of Pompeii in 79 AD, it was also unusually active in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, erupting six times in the eighteenth century and again in 1822, less than a decade before the publication of Rogers’s Italy.
In designing the composition, Turner may well have referred to the many drawings of the Bay of Naples that he made during his visit there in 1819, although none of his on-site studies appear to have served as direct models for this view of the bay (see the Gandolfo to Pompeii, Amalfi sketchbook, Turner Bequest CLXXXV and Naples, Paestum, and Rome sketchbooks, Turner Bequest CLXXXVI). He also produced at least one unfinished preparatory study (see Tate D27530; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 13). It is possible that another study of distant mountains set against a fiery sunset is also related to this vignette (see Tate D27541; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 24).
1
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830, p.189.
2
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.368. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T04662 and T04663).
3
Brown 1990, p.167.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Read full Catalogue entry

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