Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of Naples from the Steps of San Nicola da Tolentino


Not on display
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 x 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 48

Catalogue entry

Turner made a number of panoramic views of Naples from elevated positions around the city. The viewpoint for this study is the steps of San Nicola da Tolentino on the lower slopes of the hill below Certosa di San Martino and Castel Sant’Elmo, beside the monastic complex of Suor Orsola Benincasa (now the headquarters for the university of the same name on present-day Corso Vittorio Emanuele). The building dates from the seventeenth century and is approached from the side by a dramatic double curving staircase which appears in the foreground of the sketch. The exterior of the church can be seen on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 49 verso (D16005; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 47v). Turner’s vista looks south towards Pizzofalcone and the headland of Castel dell’Ovo with Vesuvius, the Sorrentine peninsula and the island of Capri visible along the distant horizon. Other figures can be seen climbing the steps to admire the prospect including a couple of ladies in bonnets. A series of related views can be found on folios 48–49 (D16002–D16004; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 46–47), and the composition is also similar to a couple of studies in the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16100 and D16101; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 12 and 13).
The drawing was one of a number of sketchbook pages selected for display from the Turner Bequest by John Ruskin.1 Unfortunately, in common with many of the sketches and watercolours exhibited during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the work has suffered from overexposure to light and the paper has become irreversibly discoloured.

Nicola Moorby
July 2010

Cook and Wedderburn (eds.) 1904, p.305. The work also appears on a list for an exhibition at an unknown venue, tentatively dated ?1912 (see Tate catalogue files). There is no existing catalogue or any further available information.

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