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Finberg suggested that the subject of this drawing was the Bay of Baiae but in fact it depicts villas along the coast of Posillipo with a distant view of Capri and the Sorrentine peninsula. The arches on the right-hand side of the composition represent part of the Via Posillipo, the road which follows the rugged shoreline west of Naples, between Mergellina and the Capo di Posillipo. Commissioned by the King of Naples, Joachim Murat in 1812 it was still under construction during Turner’s first visit to Italy, and would finally be completed in 1824.
Some of the most picturesque and celebrated scenery in southern Italy was found in Posillipo, an area which derives its name from the Greek, ‘Pausílypon’, meaning ‘respite from care’. It was the location for many seafront villas and palazzos which had begun to appear within the coves and inlets since the seventeenth century.1 Although not conclusively identified, the foremost structure in this view perhaps depicts the ruins of the seventeenth-century Palazzo del Duca d’Aquale (present-day Villa Mazziotti, built in 1849). Another sketch of the same stretch of coastline can be seen in the Naples, Paestum, Rome sketchbook (Tate D16071; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 82). Further drawings from the Via Posillipo can be found within this same sketchbook (Tate D16070–D16077; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 81a–85), as well as the Gandolfo to Naples sketchbook (Tate D15669; Turner Bequest 56a) and the Naples; Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16094–D16095, D16106; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 7–8, 18).
The coastline is now heavily overdeveloped and many of the original historic villas have been subsumed by modern buildings.
Blank, save for inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘[?M]’ bottom right, ascending right-hand edge.