Turner often sought out high vantage points from which to gain a panoramic perspective across cities and landscapes. The highest point in Naples was the hill of Camaldoli to the north-west, from where it was possible to survey the length of the Gulf of Naples and the Tyrrhenian coastline from Gaeta in the west to Vesuvius and Sorrento in the east. It was a popular destination for tourists and similarly for topographical artists. Turner’s contemporary, James Hakewill (1778–1843), for example, made a detailed drawing of the vista inscribed with the names of the principal landmarks.1
The sketch on this page forms part of a sweeping view looking south and west from Camaldoli across the Campi Flegrei (Phlegraean or Burning Fields), the volcanic area to the west of Naples bordered by the Gulf of Pozzuoli. The composition continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 72 verso (D15870; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 70a), but the features visible on this side include the island of Nisida near the Scuola di Virgilio promontory, and Lake Agnano (labelled by the artist ‘Lago Ag’), a volcanic crater lake which was drained during the late nineteenth century and is now the site of a modern hippodrome. For further views from Camaldoli see folios 42 verso, 72, 73 verso–78 verso (D15816, D15869, D15872–D15882; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 42a, 70, 71a–76a).
The hill was also the site of the Eremo di Camaldoli, a sixteenth-century monastery positioned at the very summit of its heights. The church is the building on the left-hand side of this sketch and Turner has even added the small figure of a Camaldolese monk winding his way up the slopes.
View from the great Camaldoli above the city of Naples 1816 (British School at Rome Library), reproduced in 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.5.42, reproduced p.270.