Turner’s sojourn in Naples included extensive exploration of the Campi Flegrei (Phlegraean or Burning Fields), the area to the west of the city famous for its picturesque volcanic landscape and important classical sites. The subject of this drawing is a view of the Bay of Pozzuoli from the road to the so-called Scuola di Virgilio (School of Virgil), a set of ruins on the promontory west of Marechiaro which forms the western tip of the Posillipo ridge (present-day Parco Virgiliano). Turner’s viewpoint looks west across the plain of Bagnoli towards the sweeping curve of the bay. Beyond the hill on the left is the island of Nisida, whilst behind this are the archipelago of the Capo Miseno and the islands of Procida and the larger Ischia on the right. The port of Pozzuoli is just visible at the tip of the headland on the right-hand side.
Turner was already familiar with the aspects of this view before seeing it at firsthand. A description by the travel writer John Chetwode Eustace appears in A Classical Tour Through Italy (first published 1813):
When we arrived there, another view opened upon us, varied, rich and beautiful: on our left, the rocky promontory of Posillipo, and the little island of Nisida rising steep from the waves; on our right the road ran along steep precipices formed of lava, and terminated in Pozzuolo. Before us appeared in succession the high coast and the castle of Bajae, the promontory of Misenus, and the peak of Inarime (Ischia). This union of islands, promontories, rocks, or castles forms the enchanting bay of Pozzuolo.1
Turner had read and made notes from this passage in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13956; Turner Bequest CLXXII 13a). Furthermore as a young man he had made a watercolour copy of the prospect after John Robert Cozens (1752–1797).2 Compare also a near-contemporaneous drawing by his friend and collaborator, James Hakewill (1778–1843), The Bay of Pozzuoli with the distant Island of Ischia 1816 (British School at Rome Library).3
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1818, 4th edition, vol.II, p.454.
View over Baia to Ischia, from the Road Leading to the Scuola di Virgilio, after John Robert Cozens 1795–7 (British Museum). Compare also a drawing in a 1793 sketchbook (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester), reproduced in Anthony Blunt, Catalogue of Seven Sketch-Books by John Robert Cozens, Sothebys, London 1973, vol.IV, no.2.
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.5.48, p.277.