As part of the preparation for our 20 years celebrations, our Chinese Bronzes and Women’s Library collections will be closed from Monday 26 February, reopening with the rest of our new season on Thursday 21 March.

Pietro Fabris active between 1756/7 and 1804

The Bay of Naples from Posillipo



Pietro Fabris active between 1756/7 and 1804


The Bay of Naples from Posillipo


About 1770


Oil on canvas


75 x 128 cm (unframed); 95 x 146 cm (framed)






On Display

What might the iconic bay of Naples have smelled like in the eighteenth century? Certainly the heady, metallic smell of fish would have drifted on the air. In this lively scene a peasant family are seen fishing in the foreground. A small child in tattered clothes holds up a fish, recalling the renowned German poet Goethe’s description of how Neapolitan children would opportunistically transport fish from the harbour into town: ‘the tiniest brats themselves are not without their many bits of business. A large fraction carry fish from Santa Lucia to sell in the town…’ Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Neapolitan Journey, May 28 1787 The higher ranks of society can be glimpsed through the lower arch of the historic residence of Palazzo Donn'Anna, which sits prominently on the seashore of the Posillipo coastline. Beyond this building, looking from left to right, we see: the crowded Riviera di Chiaia, known at the time as Real Passeggio di Chiaia (or Royal Promenade of Chiaia), one of the favourite walking spots for Grand Tourists; the Certosa (Carthusian monastery) of San Martino and Castel Sant’Elmo, both dominating the hill above the city; the Castel dell’Ovo, extending into the sea in the centre and Vesuvius puffing away in the distance. In the calm sea of the bay an array of boats have been used by the artist to balance colour, light and interest throughout the composition. They include the small boat which is being rowed towards shore in the foreground and is flying the Bourbon flag, and an English ship, which sits at anchor further out in the bay.

Pietro Fabris The Bay of Naples from Posillipo About 1770 © Compton Verney