- Museum number
View of Stromboli, with Mount Etna in the distance; view of the volcanic island from a ship, with Mount Etna covered with snow in the distance to the left. 1777
Watercolour over graphite sketch, on artist's own mount
- Production date
Height: 174 millimetres
Height: 212 millimetres
Width: 463 millimetres (drawing)
Width: 500 millimetres (mount)
- Curator's comments
- This drawing appears to be the next in a sequence of views made by Gore as he approached these volcanic islands, in the Payne Knight collection in this Department.
Notes on the back of the Folio Society mount indicate that it was once called 'French School' and was also tentatively attributed to John 'Warwick' Smith.
Pieter van der Merwe of the NMM, Greenwich has pointed out that if it is indeed meant to be Etna in the distance on this Gore drawing (as in the inscription on the verso), it is entirely capriccio. Stromboli is well north of Sicily, Etna half way down the east coast with the mountain ranges of the island in between. One cannot be seen from the other at all.
In practical terms a slightly romanticized view of Lipari or other islands in that group is more likely as the background: Stromboli as I recall is west and slightly north, but a map will tell.
The following entry is taken from Kim Sloan, 'A Noble Art: Amateur Artists and Drawing Masters c. 1600-1800' (2000), p. 183:
When Charles Gore, Richard Payne Knight and Phillip Hackert left Naples for Sicily on 12 April 1777, they planned to stop and visit Paestum and the volcanic Lipari islands en route. Payne Knight and Hackert both knew Sir William Hamilton, the British envoy to the King of Naples and the Two Sicilies, although he was visiting England when they were in Naples. Hamilton had employed Hackert to make drawings of montagnuoli thrown up by Vesuvius as early as 1770. Hamilton's lavishly illustrated Campi Phlegraei, a close study of the volcanic area around Naples, had been published in 1776, less than a year before they set off on their trip to Sicily, and he had already established a reputation as a modern Pliny whose careful observations might help to reveal the ancient history of the earth. Even in his absence, they would undoubtedly have had access to or already have known the images of volcanoes that lined the walls of his residence, the Palazzo Sessa, particularly the views of the volcanoes of the Lipari Islands and Sicily that Pietro Fabris had drawn when he accompanied Hamilton in his examination of the area in 1768. A guided ascent of Vesuvius and a collection of volcanic minerals were a standard element of any visit to Naples and Payne Knight is known to have partaken of both.
Payne Knight and Gore saw their expedition as a scholarly investigation of ancient history and modern manners, and they intended to publish their findings as an illustrated diary written by Payne Knight. Paestum would provide them with an introduction to the massive Doric architecture that was evidence of the ancient culture they would find in Sicily, and the Lipari Islands provided the perfect introduction to a chain of volcanoes that ended with Mount Etna. Payne Knight sought to learn moral lessons from history, and volcanoes not only provided some of the most sublime visions in nature, including an opportunity to literally look into the mouth of hell, but from ancient times they were thought to be part of God's punishment of sinful mankind. Hamilton's and other recent studies had indicated that they also provided an opportunity to understand how the earth was actually formed. Thus volcanoes were the perfect object of study of an expedition whose aim was to explore history and morality.
Charles Gore already had more experience of marine views than Hackert (see cat79 ) and his two views of the Islands are among the few in the Payne Knight series at the British Museum that were not worked up into finished drawings by Hackert, Cozens, or Hearne. There are twelve more views of the islands among the Gore drawings at Weimar which show how carefully prepared were the two final versions in the Payne Knight Bequest. They were inscribed by Hackert in French like the present drawing which is the same quality as the other two; in fact it is the nearest to Stromboli and most clearly shows the shape and nature of the volcano. But Stromboli was the only active volcano in the chain apart from Etna, and this view may have been rejected by Payne Knight because unlike the other two it does not show smoke coming from the summit which Payne Knight had made a point of describing in his text. In addition, his commentary mentions that Mount Etna was not visible due to certain atmospheric effects, yet it is seen clearly on the left of this view. Payne Knight wanted to land on the island and examine the crater, but was prevented by an ordinance from the King of Naples that visitors submit to a period of quarantine before landing.
Literature: Jenkins and Sloan, pp. 65, 165-8; Stumpf, pp. 30-1
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2000 May-Sep, BM P&D, 'A Noble Art', no.126
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
According to a label on the back of the dealer's mount, this drawing was stock number D 3609 and attributed to French school, when it was with the Folio Society in the 1960s, and its purchase price then was PDS 15.00.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number