Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Mole Lighthouse, Naples; and a View of Castel dell’Ovo and Pizzofalcone from the West


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 122 × 197 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 35

Catalogue entry

The two drawings on this page represent variant views of Naples.1 The main study in the bottom left-hand corner is a view of the lighthouse which stood on the former Mole (pier) facing the old port or arsenale (naval shipyard) near Castel Nuovo.2 It was a landmark much favoured by artists visiting Naples and appears in countless paintings from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, usually looking east out to sea, with Vesuvius and the Sorrentine peninsula in the background.3 Turner’s sketch, however, offers a more unusual and somewhat confusing viewpoint looking with the lighthouse on the elbow of the pier to the left, back towards the buildings lining the waterfront. On the right-hand side he has faintly indicated a ship with a tall mast docked alongside the jetty. For a depiction of the lighthouse looking from the opposite direction see folio 70 (D15672; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 58), and for a similar view see a sketch from the sea in the Naples, Paestum, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15914; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 4).
The sketch in the top right-hand corner depicts a view of Castel dell’Ovo (Castle of the Egg) and the Pizzofalcone Hill from the west, possibly from the sea. The twin peaks of Monte Somma and Vesuvius, with its smoking crater, rise beyond the headland of the castle. A similar vista can be seen in more detail on folio 41 verso (D15635; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 40a).
Finberg erroneously described them as views of Capua: Finberg 1909, p.544.
The port of Naples has undergone extensive redevelopment since the early nineteenth century but the approximate position of the lighthouse was near the present-day ferry terminal of Molo Angioino (Stazione Marittima).
See for example Thomas Jones (1742–1803), The Bay of Naples and the Mole Lighthouse 1782 (Tate, T08246) and John Robert Cozens (1752–1797), Vesuvius and Somma from the Mole at Naples, (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford). Both reproduced in Francis W. Hawcroft, Travels in Italy 1776–1783: Based on the “Memoirs” of Thomas Jones, exhibition catalogue, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester 1988, nos.110 and 112, pp.94–9.

Nicola Moorby
May 2010

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop