Joseph Mallord William Turner

Naples from above Virgil’s Tomb


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Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 255 × 403 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 55

Catalogue entry

One of the most famous panoramic views of the Bay of Naples is that from the Posillipo Hill to the west. Like many English tourists, Turner made the ascent of the hill to the so-called Tomb of Virgil, an ancient Roman burial monument positioned above the opening of the Grotto of Posillipo (now known as the Crypta Neapolitana in present-day Parco Vergiliano). This vista depicts the view looking east from a point near Virgil’s tomb.1 On the right-hand side of the composition is the semi-circular sweep of the Chiaia waterfront towards the headland of Castel dell’Ovo with Vesuvius rising beyond. Above the city to the left are the Castel Sant’Elmo and the Certosa di San Martino, whilst the building along the ridge of the Vomero Hill on the far left-hand side is the seventeenth-century Villa Belvedere.
Related compositions can be found on another page within this sketchbook (Tate D16143; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 55), as well as in the Gandolfo to Naples sketchbook (Tate D15664–15666; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 54–55) and the Pompeii, Amalfi, Sorrento, Herculaneum sketchbook (Tate D15904; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 90). Compare also a drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843), Naples and Mount Vesuvius from above Virgil’s Tomb 1816 (British School at Rome Library), reproduced in Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy (published 1820), a book to which Turner also contributed illustrations.2
Compare a late nineteenth-century photograph by Giacomo Brogi (1822–1881), Panorama preso dalla Tomba di Virgilio (Museo San Martino, Naples), reproduced at
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5.43, p.271.
Technical notes:
The Naples, Rome C. Studies sketchbook was partially rebound in 1935. This leaf was perhaps originally folio 16 (see the concordance in the introduction).
Blank, save for inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘[?M]’ bottom right, ascending right-hand edge

Nicola Moorby
November 2010

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