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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Naples, Paestum and Rome sketchbook 1819

Turner Bequest CLXXXVI
Sketchbook with paper covered boards bound with a red leather spine, and a brass clasp [missing]
92 leaves of white wove writing paper, approximate page size 113 x 189 mm
Made by William Allee, Hurstbourne Prior Mill, Hampshire; various pages watermarked ‘ALLEE | 1813’
Inscribed by the artist in black ink on the cover ‘Vesuvius. Napoli. Virgils Tomb | 1 Journey to Salerno. Pæstum | returning from Naples to Rome.’ top centre (see D40948). Finberg also records an inscription by the artist in ink on one of the covers ‘12. Vesuvius. Napoli. V. Tomb. 1 Rt to Salerno. Paestum, and Return from Naples to Rome’ which is now mostly missing or destroyed (see D40950).
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXVI’ top right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner used this sketchbook during his first tour of Italy in 1819, one of twenty-three related to that trip. In particular it is one of six sketchbooks which record his travels to the south of the country.1 As his label on the front cover indicates, the contents comprise studies of Naples and its surroundings, as well a visit south to Salerno and Paestum. Additionally, scattered throughout the book are drawings pertaining to the return journey from Naples and Rome. A final anomaly is a single view of Windsor Castle which may pre- or post-date the tour.
In a similar manner to the artist’s sketches of Rome and its environs, Turner’s visual records of Naples and the coastline of southern Italy often do not follow a logical sequence but are jumbled and interspersed throughout the sketchbook. It is therefore impossible to fully reconstruct his itinerary. He certainly roamed freely around Naples, taking particular interest in the quaysides and waterfront, as well as viewpoints which afforded panoramic views across the city, see for example folio 49 (D16004; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 47). There is a sequence of sketches drawn from the sea (see folios 3 verso–12, D15913–D15919 and D15922–D15930) and he also explored the coastline to the west including picturesque Posillipo with its assortment of bays, grottos, ruins and villas. It is not evident whether he explored this part of the gulf once or several times although the large number of similar studies found within different sketchbooks indicates more than one trip.
The sketchbook also documents an expedition to see the famous Greek temples at Paestum, the southernmost point reached by Turner during his Italian soujourn. Having journeyed as far as Naples the artist seized his opportunity to visit this celebrated site which he knew about through paintings and prints by Piranesi (1720–1778) and John Robert Cozens (1752–1797). However, it is not clear whether he visited Paestum before, after, or as part of the circuit represented within the Pompeii, Amalfi, Sorrento and Herculaneum sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXXV).2 On-the-spot sketches show that the outward leg of the Paestum trip appears to have been undertaken by road from Naples through the Lattari mountains to Cava dei Tirreni, Vietri and Salerno, a journey which Cecilia Powell has suggested would have taken two days.3 Anthony Bailey has stated that sketches of the rugged Amalfi coastline seen from the sea (found in the Pompeii, Amalfi, Sorrento and Herculaneum sketchbook) reveal that Turner returned from Paestum to Naples by boat.4 However, the latter also contains views of Cava dei Tirreni and Salerno suggesting that there may have been two excursions south of Naples, and that Turner experienced these places on separate occasions.
The other sketchbooks containing Neapolitan and southern Italian subjects are Vatican Fragments (Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXX), Albano, Nemi, Rome (Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXXII), Gandolfo to Naples (Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV), Pompeii, Amalfi, Sorrento and Herculaneum (Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXXV), and Naples: Rome C. Studies (Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII).
Powell 1987, p.79.
Ibid., p.78.
Anthony Bailey, Standing in the Sun: A Life of J.M.W. Turner, London 1997, p.246.

Nicola Moorby
September 2010

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How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Naples, Paestum and Rome sketchbook 1819’, sketchbook, September 2010, 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/naples-paestum-and-rome-sketchbook-r1137831, accessed 14 June 2024.