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drawing

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1948,1009.19

  • Description

    View of the Bay of Naples with a group of figures dancing and playing music on the shore to left, a volcano (Vesuvius) smoking in the distance to right Watercolour and bodycolour

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1800 (fl.circa)
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 359 millimetres
    • Width: 584 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Signed: "Xavr Gatta p.1782 Neap."
  • Curator's comments

    Text from Ian Jenkins and Kim Sloan, 'Vases and Volcanoes: Sir William Hamilton and his Collection', BM 1996, cat.22:

    Della Gatta made his living from this type of souvenir view of Naples, taken from the most popular traditional viewpoints around the bay. This particular view is from just the other side of the Palazzo Donn'Anna, looking in the opposite direction from the view of Villa Emma (Jenkins & Sloan 1996, cat. no. 23), out towards the city and the Bay of Naples, rather than along the Posillipo coast. This drawing is an early example of these views, which the artist varied only by minor alterations in the figures and which were repeated by him endlessly over the next thirty years. Not surprisingly, their quality fluctuated enormously, from the skilful depiction visible in the lovely view of Villa Emma, through the slightly less careful attention to detail in the present work, to hasty and slapdash works, produced to satisfy an obviously enormous market but often unworthy of his name, which should probably be attributed to studio assistants.
    Because Della Gatta's viewpoints were the most popular with his clients, they seem instantly familiar and some authors have even suggested that he merely copied favourite views by other artists, rather than making preparatory drawings or careful studies on the spot ('Shadow of Vesuvius', p. 118). Certainly he worked closely with Alessandro D'Anna when they were commissioned in 1783 to paint costumes of the Kingdom of Naples for the decoration of the Real Fabrica china. As Fabris's costume publication was the first to record these in etchings, it is natural they would use his work as a source (Jenkins & Sloan 1996, cat. no. 150). Della Gatta also made copies of several of Fabris's gouache landscapes of the 1770s. In this, however, and in his variations on such famous views as Lusieri's taken from, a balcony at Portici (Jenkins & Sloan 1996, cat. no. 4), he was only providing the market with the quantity of these views that Fabris by that time, and Lusieri with his slow methods, could not hope to supply. Certainly, his view of the Villa Emma is an accurate and up-to-date record of the house as it appeared twenty years after Fabris's view of the same (1865,0610.964), and must be the result of careful study from nature. To imply that Della Gatta was a mere copyist of their work or imitator of Hackert, whose work strongly influenced his own in the 1790s, is not to give due credit to the artist of such original, powerful and well-executed compositions as those he painted in 1802 to commemorate the return of the Neapolitan monarchs. Although Hamilton did not own either of these views of Posillipo by Della Gatta, his manuscript list of the paintings on the walls of the Palazzo Sessa included "Gatta -Day View in Watercolour of the last Eruption of Mount Vesuvius". It was described as a "superb representation" in Hamilton's sale at Christie's (18 April 1801, lot 24, bt Lutridge, £2.10.0; possibly the one now in the Krafft Bequest, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, OA KR 24: see fig. 33). Hamilton's letter to the Royal Society describing the eruption of 1794 was accompanied by a group of coloured drawings by Della Gatta, which were published in the Society's 'Philosophical Transactions' the following year. Hamilton noted in the text that of the seven plates, four were taken from nature by "Signor Xavier Gatto" whom he described as successor to the "late ingenious Mr Fabris". These drawings are now with Hamilton's original letter in the Royal Society (L&P, x.103).

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Jenkins & Sloan 1996 22 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Italian Atlas XVIIIc)

  • Exhibition history

    1996 Mar-Jul, BM, Vases and Volcanoes, no.22

  • Subjects

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1948

  • 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.

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number

    1948,1009.19

View of the Bay of Naples with a group of figures dancing and playing music on the shore to l, a volcano (Vesuvius) smoking in the distance to r Watercolour and bodycolour

Recto

View of the Bay of Naples with a group of figures dancing and playing music on the shore to l, a volcano (Vesuvius) smoking in the distance to r Watercolour and bodycolour

Image description

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