Joseph Mallord William Turner

Villas at Posillipo, with Castel Sant’Elmo, Naples in the Distance


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 8

Catalogue entry

This sketch depicts part of the coast of Posillipo, characterised by its steep tufa cliffs and historic shoreline villas. Many of the buildings dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have since been subsumed within modern twentieth-century developments but the three-storey ruin in the middle distance appears to represent the famous Palazzo Donn’Anna (see Tate D16091; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 4). Rising in the distance beyond is the hill above Naples surmounted by the characteristic silhouette of the Castel Sant’Elmo. Turner made a number of studies of this part of the Gulf of Naples, see for example folio 80 (D16063; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 78), and a similar prospect looking north-east in the direction of the city can be found in the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16094; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 7). The composition is also reminiscent to similar views by the Swiss watercolourist, Abraham-Louis-Rodolphe Ducros (1747–1810).1
This page was selected by Ralph Nicholson Wornum for the First Loan Collection, a group of sixty-five works exhibited in the provinces during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.2 It was removed from the sketchbook and displayed within a mount. Consequently, like the other works included in those tours, the drawing has suffered badly from over-exposure to light and the paper has yellowed considerably. It also appears to have been numbered incorrectly and was catalogued by Finberg as folio 8 in the sketchbook. A small part of a separate landscape composition in the top right-hand corner has meant that the sheet could be subsequently be reunited with the correct double-page spread, see folio 88 verso (D16080; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 86a), formerly listed as missing by Finberg.3
See Posillipo seen from Palazzo Donn’Anna, Naples (Museum of San Martino), and An Idealised View of Posillipo (Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne), both reproduced in Pierre Chessex, Lindsay Stainton, Luc Boissonnas et al., Images of the Grand Tour: Louis Ducros, exhibition catalogue, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne 1985, no.36 and fig.G, p.65.
Warrell 1991, pp.36–8.
Finberg 1909, p.551.
Blank, see D15921

Nicola Moorby
September 2010

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