View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Turner made a number of panoramic sketches of Naples from certain elevated viewpoints across the city. This drawing depicts a vista looking east across the city towards the semi-circular sweep of the bay. The main focal point is the old port, identifiable from the lighthouse on the L-shaped Mole (or pier), and the adjacent fortress of Castel Nuovo. Dominating the background is the vast bulk of Vesuvius with its smoking cone-shapped crater and the adjacent lesser peak of Monte Somma. Turner’s viewpoint appears to be somewhere on the lower slopes of the Sant’Elmo/San Martino Hill, possibly in front of the monastic complex of Suor Orsola Benincasa (now the headquarters for the university of the same name on present-day Corso Vittorio Emanuele). The foreground includes studies of a number of figures including a pair of nuns in dark habits, and a couple of uniformed soldiers. A series of related views can be found on folios 48 and 49–50 (D16002 and D16004–D16006; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 46 and 47–48). The composition is also similar to a coloured study in the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16101; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 13).
The paper is discoloured owing to light exposure dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see folio 48 (D16002; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 46).