View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
During the nineteenth century one of the most famous vistas in Naples was the view looking east across the bay towards Vesuvius from the Posillipo Hill above the so-called Tomb of Virgil. This sketch is one of a number of variant studies of the prospect that Turner made during his visit in 1819. In the bottom left-hand corner of the composition is the conical burial vault popularly known as Virgil’s Tomb, situated at the tall cavernous entrance to the Grotto of Posillipo (known today as the Crypta Neapolitana), whilst bottom-right can be seen the buttressed slopes of the Salita di Sant’Antonio, the winding road which leads from Piedigrotta to the Church of Sant’Antonio.1 For a nineteenth-century description see folio 71 (D15867; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 69). The semi-circular curve of the bay sweeps around the Chiaia district towards the Castel dell’Ovo headland whilst above the city to the left are the heights of Castel Sant’Elmo and the Certosa di San Martino. Dominating the horizon is the adjoining peaks of Monte Somma and Vesuvius with its smoking crater.
Further sketches of the same view can be found on folios 69 verso–71 (D15905–D15867; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 90a–69) and in the Naples; Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16102 and D16143; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 14 and 55). Compare also a drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843), Naples and Mount Vesuvius from above Virgil’s Tomb 1816 (British School at Rome Library), reproduced in Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy (published 1820), a book to which Turner also contributed illustrations.2
See an untitled drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843) (British School at Rome Library), reproduced in Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5.49, p.278.
Ibid., no.5.43, p.271.