J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Posillipo from the Sea 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Posillipo from the Sea 1819
Turner Bequest CXCVII E
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 255 x 368 mm
Stamped in black ‘CXCVII E’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The traditional title of this coloured study is Naples but the composition in fact depicts the hill and coast of Posillipo to the west of the city. The name derives from the Greek ‘Pausilypon’ (meaning ‘respite from care’) and during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries this was considered to be one of the most picturesque areas within the Gulf of Naples. Turner’s viewpoint is from a boat on the sea to the east looking towards the point where the land tapers away at the Capo di Posillipo on the left. Visible along the shoreline are a number of historic villas which can be found all along this part of the coast. Also within the landscape just left of the centre of the composition is an arched substructure which represents part of the recently built Via Posillipo, the road commissioned by the King of Naples, Joachim Murat, in order to make Posillipo accessible from Naples. The road stretches the length of the coast from Mergellina at the eastern foot of the Posillipo Hill, to the Capo di Posillipo in the west, and for much of this distance runs parallel with the shoreline.
This single loose sheet was formerly catalogued by Finberg within a group of ‘colour beginnings’.1 Owing to the paper type, however, it has subsequently been identified by Peter Bower as originally forming part of the Naples, Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Turner Bequest CLXXXVII),2 and was perhaps folio 1 (see the concordance in the introduction); Finberg lists ‘page’ 1 as ‘missing’.3 It appears to have become separated from the sketchbook during June–July of 1869 when it was selected for the Third Loan Collection, a group of seventy-one works chosen by Ralph Nicholson Wornum (1812–1877), for display in the provinces.4 Like many objects exhibited during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it has suffered from some fading and discolouration.
Finberg 1909, vol.I, p.602.
Bower 1990, p.117. The watermark is listed as belonging to ‘John Jones and John Mather, Afonwen Mill, Flintshire, North Wales’, but in unpublished notes the author has since identified it as that of George Molineux and Thomas Johnston of Lewes, or Isfield Mills, Sussex.
See Finberg 1909, vol.I, p.555.
Finberg 1909, vol.I, p.vii and Warrell 1991, pp.36–8.

Nicola Moorby
February 2011

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Posillipo from the Sea 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 2011, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-posillipo-from-the-sea-r1132347, accessed 22 May 2024.