Gaspar van Wittel’s stay in Naples between 1699 and 1702 was prompted by the invitation of the Spanish Viceroy, Don Luis de la Cerda, Duke of Medinaceli (1654 –1711). The Duke was a great enthusiast of the artist’s work and commissioned over 30 paintings from him. Van Wittel (known as ‘Vanvitelli’ in Italy) specialised in the type of views known in Italian as veduta esatta, or accurate view, and indeed a large number of buildings on the Bay of Naples are identifiable in this painting. They include the Palazzo Donn’Anna, in the left foreground, which may have been occupied by the Viceroy. The gondolas crossing the bay are carrying aristocratic passengers, possibly the Viceroy’s entourage. Resembling Venetian gondolas, they were probably introduced by the artist to add a note of contrasting colour to this predominantly light-blue composition. In 1701, Don Luis returned to Spain, taking his views of Naples with him as souvenirs. This painting remained in his family until it was acquired for Compton Verney in 2001.
Gaspar van Wittel (known as Gaspare Vanvitelli) Posillipo with the Palazzo Donn’Anna About 1700-1702 © Compton Verney