Joseph Mallord William Turner

Palazzo Donn’Anna at Posillipo, Naples


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
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 5

Catalogue entry

The subject of this drawing is the Palazzo Donn’Anna (also historically known as the Palace of Queen Joanna), a seventeenth-century ruin which stands on the shore at Posillipo, to the west of central Naples. Built upon the remains of an earlier villa (the Villa Sirena), the palace was constructed for the wife of the Spanish viceroy, Anna Carafa, but when her husband returned to Spain alone in 1644, the unfinished building was left abandoned and neglected. The evocative, melancholy aura of the site was further heightened by a legend associated with Queen Giovanna II of D’Anjou (Joan or Joanna II), who is said to have entertained her lovers here before throwing them into the sea to their deaths. The grand but decaying building projecting directly into the sea presented an irresistible Neapolitan subject for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century artists and there are many paintings featuring this part of the coast.1 Turner’s sketch depicts the western façade of the palace looking east along the shoreline. Visible beyond are the distinctive profiles of the Castel dell’Ovo and the Pizzafalcone hill, whilst dominating the horizon in the far distance is the mass of Vesuvius.
For a variant study of the Palazzo Donn’Anna can see another page from this sketchbook (Tate D16091; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 4).
See for example Pietro Fabris (active 1754–1804), The Procession of Royal Ships at Palazzo Donn’Anna (private collection), Abraham-Louis-Rodolphe Ducros (1747–1810), Posillipo seen from Palazzo Donn’Anna, Naples (Museum of San Martino), and Francis Towne (1739–1816), The Palazzo Donn’Anna (British Museum, London), all reproduced in Giuliano Briganti, Nicola Spinosa and Lindsay Stainton, In the Shadow of Vesuvius: Views of Naples from Baroque to Romanticism 1631–1830, exhibition catalogue, Accademia Italiana delle Arti e delle Arti Applicate, London 1990, pp.79, 89, 91.
Blank, except traces of blue watercolour; inscribed by an unknown hand in pencil ‘[?M]’ bottom right, ascending right-hand edge.

Nicola Moorby
April 2010

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