Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Teatro di San Carlo and Castel Nuovo, Naples; and Two Sketches of ?the Ascent to Castel Sant’Elmo


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 122 x 197 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 62

Catalogue entry

This page contains several sketches related to Turner’s exploration of Naples. The subject of the main study is one of the most celebrated buildings in the city, the Teatro di San Carlo. Built in 1737 for the Bourbon King Charles VII, it became the centre for European music and remains one of the oldest and most famous opera houses in the world. The theatre had been destroyed by fire in 1816 but was immediately rebuilt and reopened in January 1817. Turner’s sketch depicts an oblique view of the front of the façade looking north-east along the Via San Carlo towards the towers of the Castel Nuovo in the background.1 In the top left-hand corner of the sheet, he has briefly added a visual note of the architectural mouldings present on the pediment of the building.
Also on the right-hand side of the page are two further drawings. Despite Turner’s inscriptions the precise location is currently unidentified but they appear to represent views of a street and church on the steep ascent to Castel Sant’Elmo.

Nicola Moorby
June 2010

For a similar composition see a painting attributed to Paolo de Albertis (1770–1844), In Front of the San Carlo Theatre before 1821 (private collection, Naples), reproduced in Roberto Middione and Brigitt Daprà, Reality and Imagination in Neapolitan Painting of the 17th to 19th Centuries, exhibition catalogue, City Art Centre, Edinburgh 1988, no.35, pp.31 and 73.

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