During his 1819 visit to southern Italy, Turner made several sketches of the Bay of Baiae, an ancient Roman bathing resort situated on the coast approximately ten miles west of Naples. These formed the basis for a later oil painting, one of three Italian subjects completed by the artist in the months and years following his return to London in 1820. The painting, The Bay of Baiae, with Apollo and the Sibyl exhibited 1823 (Tate, N00505),1 features a similar view to that depicted here, looking south-east across the bay towards the distant Posillipo coast and the island of Nisida, with the Castello di Baia (Castle of Baiae) on the promontory to the right. Turner’s viewpoint for this drawing is very close to the so-called Temple of Venus, the octagonal ruin in the left-hand foreground, which is one of a number of thermal bath-houses found near the shoreline. There is a separate smaller study of the building in the bottom right-hand corner. The composition continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 85 (D15723; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 83).
For further on-the-spot views of Baiae see folios 79 verso–81, 82, 85 verso–89 verso, 92 (D15712–D15715, D15717, D15724–D15732 and D15737; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 77a–79, 80, 83a–87a and 90). An early study of the Temple of Venus after another artist can be found in Dr Monro’s Album of Italian Views (Tate D36422; Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII 9). There is also a later oil study which probably also features the ruin, see Seacoast with Ruin, probably the Bay of Baiae circa 1828 (Tate, N00530).2