Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Castel dell’Ovo, Naples, with Capri in the Distance 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 6
Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 6
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 255 x 404 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in blue ink ‘6’ bottom right, descending right-hand edge
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXVII 6’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXVII 6’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
National Gallery, London, various dates to at least 1904 (337).
Turner Watercolors from The British Museum: A Loan Exhibition Circulated by the Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, September–October 1963, Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, Texas, November 1963, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, December 1963–January 1964, Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, January–March 1964, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, March–April 1964, Brooklyn Museum, New York, May 1964, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, June–July 1964 (17, reproduced, as ‘Naples, The Castel dell’Ovo from the Pizzofalcone, looking towards Sorrento and Capri’).
?Adelaide Festival of Arts: Special Exhibitions at the National Gallery of South Australia, National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, ?March–April 1966 (5).
Turner: Watercolours Lent by the British Museum, Musée Provisoire d’Art Moderne, Brussels, November 1970–January 1971 (13, reproduced p., as ‘Le Castel dell’Ovo, Capri avec la péninsule de Sorrente dans le lointain’).
Das Aquarell 1400–1950, Haus der Kunst, Munich, October 1972–January 1973 (146).
Turner in the British Museum: Drawings and Watercolours, British Museum, London, May 1975–February 1976 (71, reproduced, as ‘The Castel dell’Ovo, Naples, with Capri and Sorrento in the distance’).
Turner’s First Visit to Italy, 1819: Watercolours from the Turner Bequest, Loaned by the British Museum, Tate Gallery, London, April–October 1981 (no catalogue).
J.M.W. Turner, à l’occasion du cinquantième anniversaire du British Council, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, October 1983–January 1984 (144, reproduced, as ‘Naples: le Castel dell’Ovo avec Capri et Sorrente au loin’).
Summer Miscellany: Watercolours from the Turner Bequest, Tate Gallery, London, July–October 1988 (no catalogue).
The Third Decade: Turner Watercolours 1810–1820, Tate Gallery, London, January–April 1990 (46, reproduced and in colour).
Original Eyes: Progressive Vision in British Watercolour 1750–1850, Tate Gallery, Liverpool, May–August 1991 (no number).
William Turner: Licht und Farbe, Museum Folkwang, Essen, September 2001–January 2002, Kunsthaus Zürich, February–May 2002 (93, reproduced in colour).
Colour and Line: Turner’s Experiments, Tate Britain, London, November 2007–October 2008 (no catalogue).
E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (eds.), Library Edition: The Works of John Ruskin: Volume XIII: Turner: The Harbours of England; Catalogues and Notes, London 1904, no.337, pp.379, 625, as ‘Monte St. Angelo and Capri: Evening’.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.I, p.555, as ‘Monte St. Angelo and Capri. Water colour. Exhibited Drawings, No.337, N.G.’.
D[ugald] S[utherland] MacColl, National Gallery, Millbank: Catalogue: Turner Collection, London 1920, p.85.
Edward Croft-Murray, Turner Watercolors from The British Museum: A Loan Exhibition Circulated by the Smithsonian Institution, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC 1963, no.17, pp.10, 17, reproduced p., as ‘Naples, The Castel dell’Ovo from the Pizzofalcone, looking towards Sorrento and Capri’.
Luke Herrmann, Turner: Watercolours Lent by the British Museum, exhibition catalogue, Musée Provisoire d’Art Moderne, Brussels 1970, no.13, p., reproduced p., as ‘Le Castel dell’Ovo, Capri avec la péninsule de Sorrente dans le lointain’.
Andrew Wilton, Turner in the British Museum: Drawings and Watercolours, exhibition catalogue, British Museum, London 1975, no.71 p.54, reproduced p.56, as ‘The Castel dell’Ovo, Naples, with Capri and Sorrento in the distance’.
Andrew Wilton, Turner Abroad: France; Italy; Germany; Switzerland, London 1982, p.41 no.30, reproduced in colour, as ‘Naples: the Castel dell’Ovo, with Capri and Sorrento in the distance’.
John Gage, Jerrold Ziff, Nicholas Alfrey and others, J.M.W. Turner, à l’occasion du cinquantième anniversaire du British Council, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris 1983, no.144, pp.218, 220, reproduced p.219, as ‘Naples: le Castel dell’Ovo avec Capri et Sorrente au loin’.
Cecilia Powell, ‘Turner on Classic Ground: His Visits to Central and Southern Italy and Related Paintings and Drawings’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London 1984, p.181 note 48.
Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 1987, p.80 note 39.
Giuliano Briganti, Nicola Spinosa and Lindsay Stainton, All’ombra del Vesuvio: Napoli nella veduta europea dal Quattrocento all’Ottocento / In the Shadow of Vesuvius: Views of Naples from Baroque to Romanticism 1631–1830, exhibition catalogue, Accademia Italiana delle Arti e dell arti Applicate, London 1990, p.134.
Diane Perkins, The Third Decade: Turner Watercolours 1810–1820, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1990, reproduced, and in colour, p.20; and detail, front cover, as ‘Naples, the Castel dell’Ovo’.
David Blayney Brown, Original Eyes: Progressive Vision in British Watercolour 1750–1850, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery Liverpool 1991, p.40, reproduced p.39, as ‘Castel dell’Ovo, Naples, Capri and Sorrento in the Distance’.
Andrew Wilton, Inge Bodesohn-Vogel and Helena Robinson, William Turner: Licht und Farbe, exhibition catalogue, Museum Folkwang, Essen 2001, no.93, pp.317 under no.89, 318 under no.91, 319, reproduced in colour, p.161, as ‘Naples: the Castel dell’Ovo with Capri beyond’.
David Blayney Brown, Turner in the Tate Collection, London 2002, p.110, reproduced in colour pl.65, as ‘Naples, the Castel dell’Ovo’.
Ian Warrell (ed.), Franklin Kelly and others, J.M.W. Turner, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 2007, p.133 under no.93.
In addition to a wealth of pencil sketches of Naples, Turner made seven watercolour studies of the city during his 1819 Italian tour. Three of these feature the Castel dell’Ovo (Castle of the Egg), an historic fortress built on the islet of Megaride, a small piece of headland which juts into the sea in front of the port of Santa Lucia. The castle was one of the most ancient buildings in Naples, and its unusual name is said to derive from the legend of a magic egg hidden within the walls by the Latin poet, Virgil. So long as it remained intact, the egg would protect the castle and the entire city. The fortress frequently appears within panoramic views of the surrounding bay (see for example D16143; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 55), but here Turner has adopted a more unusual visual approach. The view looks south-east from the foot of the hill of Pizzafalcone, with the squarish bulk of the castle in the central foreground.1 Silhouetted in the distance are the Bay of Sorrento and the eastern tip of the Gulf of Naples and, to the right, the island of Capri. There are two related coloured views within the same sketchbook (see D16089 and D16109; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 2 and 21), as well as a further study of the distant promontory and island without the Castel dell’Ovo in the foreground (D16108; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 20). All of these show the same motif at different times of day, and under varying weather conditions.
The study is unfinished but has been worked up to a fairly advanced level of detail. Turner has used loose wet washes to establish the basic composition of sea, sky and land, but has employed finer brushwork to describe the architectural structures, mountainous coastline and cloud formations. The textural qualities of the foreground trees and foliaged have been achieved with a dry brush technique and removal of paint to create trunks and branches. The clear limpid colours on pure white paper are intrinsically suited to the bright sunlight and Neapolitan subject matter.
John Ruskin described this watercolour drawing as having a ‘lovely sky and some perfect trees’ adding that it was ‘of the supremest time and power; – only a sketch, mind; but worth more than pictures’.2 A copy by his protégé, William Ward (1829–1908) was shown at the Ruskin Exhibition at Manchester in 1904.3
A similar composition appears in an oil study by Carl Gustav Carus (1789–1869), Castel dell’Ovo a Napoli, ?1828 (private collection), reproduced in Anna Ottani Cavina, Un Paese Incantato: Italia Dipinta da Thomas Jones a Corot, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Parigi and Palazzo Te, Mantova, Italy 2001, no.157, p.257.
Quoted in Cook and Wedderburn (eds.), vol.XIII, p.625.
Catalogue of the Ruskin Exhibition, Manchester City Art Gallery, Manchester 1904, no.176.
Long detached from the Naples, Rome C. Studies sketchbook, this sheet was perhaps once folio 6 (see the concordance in the introduction).
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘15 [encircled]’ centre and ‘CLXXXVII. 6’ bottom right; stamped in black ‘CLXXXVII 6’ bottom centre.
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