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As Finberg first identified, the subject of this sketch is Cava de’ Tirreni (formerly known as La Cava), a town amidst the hills on the road between Nocera and Salerno.1 The composition shows a view from the south looking across a viaduct towards the Church of San Francesco on the opposite site of the gorge. The peaks in the background form part of the Lattari mountain range with Monte Castello on the left and Monte Sant’Angelo on the right. This particular vista was the most famous prospect of the town and would have been familiar to Turner through the work of earlier landscape artists, see for example his copy of a view by John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831), in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (Tate D13971; Turner Bequest CLXXII 21a).2 He made a number of related on-the-spot studies, see folios 25 and 29 (D15956 and D15964; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 24 and 27), and the Pompeii, Amalfi, Sorrento, Herculaneum sketchbook (Tate D15790, D15795; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 28, 30a).
An approximation of the view as Turner would have seen it is still identifiable today. The bridge. which was built in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, is still in place (between present-day Via Enrico de Marinis and Piazza San Francesco), whilst the church, which was almost entirely destroyed during an earthquake in 1980, was rebuilt on the same site.
Finberg 1909, p.551. After the unification of Italy the name of the town was changed to Cava de’ Tirreni (or sometimes Cava dei Tirreni).
Comparable views by other artists include Jacob Philipp Hackert (1737–1807), Veduta di Cava dei Tirreni, 1782 (Palazzo Reale, Caserta), reproduced in colour in Franco Maria Ricci, Philipp Hackert: Vedute del Regno di Napoli, Milan 1992, pp.34–5.