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.

Gabriele Ricciardelli, attributed active 1740-1780

The Lanterna del Molo, Naples



Gabriele Ricciardelli, attributed active 1740-1780


The Lanterna del Molo, Naples


About 1740–1750 (?)


Oil on canvas


64.5 x 103.8 cm (unframed); 78.5 x 118.5 cm (framed)






Not on Display

This painting depicts the Lanterna (lighthouse) and the Molo (pier) in Naples set against the dramatic backdrop of the smoking Vesuvius. The scene is populated by delicately painted figures who represent a cross-section of the Neapolitan population. In the foreground on the left are two priests in black, while a further priest offers alms to a couple of beggars by the wall of a building. Fishermen in their traditional blue jackets and white pantaloons animate both sides of the composition. In the centre foreground and in the middle ground sumptuously dressed Neapolitan aristocrats and elegant Grand Tourists are conversing in small groups. To the right of the lighthouse, a soldier stands guard at his sentry-box; on the left, by-standers gather at the hexagonal basin of the marble fountain decorated in the centre by an allegorical figure. Slightly off-centre to the right, the huge lighthouse increases the sense of illusionistic depth; its golden colour stands out against the pale blue cloud-filled sky. The whole composition is built on a system of horizontal and vertical lines and on a studied palette of blues for natural elements and brown grey for architectures. In particular, the use of linear perspective is given both by the presence of the lighthouse – built in 1487 by Ferrante of Aragon and destroyed in 1932 for the construction of the new port, and by the diagonal lines and the shadows on the pavement. This painting is known as a vedute (view), a genre of topographical landscape painting with architectural elements that became famous across Europe in the eighteenth century. If Canaletto executed these vedute in Venice, and Giovanni Paolo Panini was the master of the genre in Rome, then Gabriele Ricciardelli was among the best known vedutisti in Naples, together with Antonio Joli (1700–1777). Within the tradition of Neapolitan vedute, the present composition is unusual, as it is the lighthouse, rather than Vesuvius, which is the primary focus. Traditionally given to Antonio Joli and published as such in all the main literature on the artist, the present painting has now been attributed to Gabriele Ricciardelli. The exceptional quality of the painting and the elegant foreign figures would suggest that it may have been executed in early Ricciardelli's career, when he worked for the Bourbon court at Portici. It is most likely that the present picture was painted for one of the many travellers, particularly English, who visited Naples on their Grand Tour throughout the eighteenth century. The lighthouse and Molo were amongst the principal sights of any Grand Tour itinerary that encompassed Naples.

Gabriele Ricciardelli, attributed The Lanterna del Molo About 1740–1750 (?) © Compton Verney