Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Bay of Naples from near Virgil’s Tomb


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXV 90 a

Catalogue entry

As Cecilia Powell first identified, this sketch depicts the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius seen from the Posillipo Hill near the so-called Tomb of Virgil.1 During the nineteenth century it was one of the most famous vistas of Naples and Turner made a number of variant drawings of it during his 1819 sojourn. The prospect looks east across 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 to the far left is the seventeenth-century Villa Belvedere. A small part of the composition spills over onto the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 70 (D15865; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 68). As Turner’s inscription on the facing page indicates, the land adjoining Virgil’s Tomb during the nineteenth century was a private vineyard, see the description on folio 71 (D15867; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 69).
Other sketches relating to the visit to Virgil’s Tomb can be found on folios 69, 70–71 (D15904, D15865–D15867; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 90, 68–69) and in the Naples; Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16102 and D16143; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 14 and 55). 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

Nicola Moorby
October 2010

Powell 1984, p.425.
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.

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