- Museum number
Naples from Mount Vesuvius; from N side of volcano, looking over the bay, with galley and other craft, horseman with telescope, two men with staves, and view of Castello S. Elmo
Graphite, partly strengthened with red chalk
- Production date
Height: 104 millimetres
Width: 141 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Etched by the artist (with omission of one figure) 'Prospectus versus Neapolin a Mont Vesuv' in the series 'Locoru aliquot Insignium et celeberrimorum inter ROMAM et NEAPOLIN [...]'.
K Sloan, Noble Art 2000
The younger son of a gentleman whose family's fortunes had been based on the manufacture of gunpowder, John Evelyn was one of the first English amateurs known to have drawn landscape. By 1645, when he made the present drawing, he had already taken several prospects, both in England and en route to Italy, but apart from this drawing only a handful of sketches of his family's estate at Wotton survive. His diary relates his various delighted and astonished responses to the landscapes they encountered as they travelled through Europe and the many occasions when he 'tooke a Landskip'. On 31 September 1644, on seeing the castle at Tournon 'the prospect was so tempting, that I could not forbeare to designe it with my Crayon'. At the beginning of November, they climbed through the clouds to the travellers' inn at Radicofani and on reaching the top they came into a 'most serene heaven ...for we could perceive nothing but a Sea of thick Clowds rowling under our feete like huge Waves, ever now & then suffering the top of some other mountains to peep through...This was I must acknowledge one of the most pleasant, new and altogether surprising objects that in my life I had ever beheld...Here we din'd, and I with my blacklead pen took the Prospect.'
He continued to draw in Rome where he wintered, and it is from there that the first evidence of his skill survives in a set of six etchings which he made from the drawings four years later. They were the souvenir of a memorable fortnight's journey to Naples and the surrounding area, for which he set out on 28 January 1645, with his travelling companion Thomas Henshaw, to whom the etchings were dedicated.
The British Museum's drawing of the view of the Bay of Naples from Vesuvius is the only drawing to survive from all of the prospects and views he took on his travels. They made the climb on 7 February and when they reached the summit and turned their faces towards Naples, they were presented with 'one of the goodliest propsects in the World; & truely, I do not think there is a greater & more noble; all the Baiae, Cuma, Elysian fields, Capra, Ischi, Prochita, Messina ...offer themselves to your view at once, & at so sweet & agreeable a distance, as nothing can be more greate & delightful.'
The wear of those travels and three and a half centuries, as well as the use of this drawing as the basis for an etching, have not been kind to it, and on its evidence, Evelyn was not a great draughtsman and had a great deal of trouble with perspective. Of greater significance for us, however, is that regardless of his skill, he was so moved by this sight that he felt compelled to record it. But his motives were not purely personal; his drawings recorded views never seen by most of his fellow countrymen and it was for their benefit that he etched them in 1649.
Literature: E.S.de Beer, The Diary of John Evelyn, II (1620-49), Oxford, 1955; John E. Bowle, John Evelyn and his World, London 1981;Hofmann T., et al, 'John Evelyn's archive at the British Library', in John Evelyn in the British Library 1995, 11-73
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2000 May-Sep, BM P&D, 'A Noble Art', no.3
2010 July-Oct, Compton Verney, Volcano
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number