Turner was fascinated by the bustle of everyday life in the port of Naples, one of the busiest and liveliest parts of the city. This sketch depicts a view looking east/north-east from a point on present-day Via Ferdinando Acton, near the Molo San Vicenzo. The building on the immediate left is the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) and Turner’s viewpoint appears to beside a fountain set into the walls of the seventeenth-century façade. In the middle distance beyond are the walls of Castel Nuovo, the Mole lighthouse and the buildings of the d’arsena or arsenale (naval shipyard or arsenal), whilst dominating the far distance is the silhouette of Monte Somma and Vesuvius. A number of boats are docked in the small harbour on the right and rising above the quayside is a crane or hoist for unloading cargo. The waterfront of Naples changed dramatically during the twentieth century but the seafront façade of the Palazzo Reale, the fountain and the hoists in the harbour can all be seen in paintings of the port from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.1
The page also contains two small thumbnail sketches of unidentified buildings.
See for example Gaspar Van Wittel (1652/3–1736, The Port, Naples 1711 (Galleria Sabauda, Turin), and Pietro Antoniani (circa 1740/50–1805), View of Naples with the Eruption of Vesuvius (D’Amodio Collection, Naples), both 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.35 and 58. Also Alexandre-Hyacinthe Dunouy (1757–1841, attributed), The Palazzo Reale and the Harbour, Naples ?circa 1780 (private collection, New York), reproduced in Philip Conisbee, Sarah Faunce and Jeremy Strick, In the Light of Italy: Corot and early Open-Air Painting, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 1996, no.3, p.115.
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