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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Study for 'Bay of Naples', Rogers's 'Italy' c.1826-7

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Study for ‘Bay of Naples’, Rogers’s ‘Italy’ circa 1826–7
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 13
Pencil and watercolour, approximately 75 x 180 mm on white wove paper, 276 x 386 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘(13’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 13’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This is an unfinished study for Naples¸ the vignette that Turner produced for Rogers’s Italy (see Tate D27660; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 143). In the final version of the illustration, Turner retained the background view of a smoking Mount Vesuvius but changed the foreground composition considerably, eliminating the town overlooking the bay and replacing it with a wide view of the gleaming, boat-filled water. The two thumbnail pencil sketches located in the top right of the sheet probably represent Turner’s experimentation with the appearance of the town on the left side on the composition. In designing the view, Turner may well have referred to the many drawings of the Bay of Naples that he made during his visit there in 1819. However, none of his on-site studies appear to have served as direct models for this view of the bay (see the Gandolfo to Naples sketchbook, Turner Bequest CLXXXIV Pompeii, Amalfi sketchbook, Turner Bequest CLXXXV and Naples, Paestum, and Rome sketchbook, Turner Bequest CLXXXVI).
The prominence of Mount Vesuvius in this study may have been intended to highlight Rogers’s description of the volcano erupting:
But here the mighty Monarch underneath,
He in his palace of fire, diffuses round
A dazzling splendour. Here, unseen, unheard,
Opening another Eden in the wild,
He works his wonders; save, when issuing forth
In thunder, he blots out the sun, the sky,
And, mingling all things earthly as in scorn,
Exalts the valley, lays the mountain low,
Pours many a torrent from his burning lake,
And in an hour of universal mirth,
What time the trump proclaims the festival,
Buries some capital city, there to sleep
The sleep of ages
(Italy, pp.191–2)
Although Vesuvius is most famous for destroying the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD, it was also unusually active in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It erupted six times during the eighteenth century and again in 1822, less than a decade before the publication of Rogers’s Italy.

Inscribed by unknown hands in red ink ‘708’ bottom left and in pencil ‘AB 117 P’ and ‘M’ and ‘CCLXXX 13’ bottom right

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘Study for ‘Bay of Naples’, Rogers’s ‘Italy’ c.1826–7 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2006, 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-study-for-bay-of-naples-rogerss-italy-r1133324, accessed 30 May 2024.