View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
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. The composition shows a view from the south looking across a viaduct towards the Church of San Francesco on the left and the smaller Church of Madonna dell’Olmo on the right. The peaks in the background form part of the Lattari mountain range with 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).1 Related sketches can be found on folio 28 (D15790) and in the Naples, Paestum, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15955, D15956 and D15964; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 23a, 24, 27).
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 of San Francesco, which was almost entirely destroyed during an earthquake in 1980, was rebuilt on the same site.
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.