Formerly attributed to William Ashford, this view was conclusively identified as a work by John Thomas Serres by the Knight of Glin. The son of the French-born London seascapist Dominic Serres, John Thomas succeeded his father in the post of Marine Painter to George III in 1793, and Marine Draughtsman to the Admiralty in 1800. The stylistic confusion with Ashford is understandable, as John Thomas Serres would have had ample opportunity to study Ashford's work; Ashford exhibited with Dominic Serres in 1790, and John Thomas is known to have owned picture by both Ashford and Thomas Roberts.
Even before his Admiralty appointment, which led to extensive travel at sea, John Thomas Serres had visited Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Genoa, Pisa, Florence, Rome and Naples. While in the latter he would have become familiar with the dramatic Neapolitan coastline, famous for its picturesque beauty and a favourite subject of Italian vedutiste as well as of non-Italian artists on the Grand Tour - captured with delight, for example, by Joseph Wright of Derby. In his depiction of Dublin Bay, Serres could have relied on its evocation of the Bay of Naples to contemporary viewers, with the Howth Hill looming, rather like Mount Vesuvius, in the distance. This inherent connotation allows Serres to set up a sophisticated comparison between southern and northern landscapes, claiming for Dublin the much-extolled beauties of the south Italian shore.
Serres returned to the motif several times, painting morning and evening views of Dublin Bay from this vantage point at Blackrock, with Howth Head in the distance; his fishermen drawing nets, here reminiscent of Neapolitan fishermen in vedute of Naples, are inspired by counterparts in Ashford (see Crookshank & Glin, 2002, p. 152).
The building given pride of place on the cliff is thought to be Newtown House, Newtown Avenue, Blackrock. It is thought to have belonged to a certain Mr. Jephson, a poet and man of letters. Serres could have visited the area on one of his trips to Ireland in the final decades of the eighteenth century, when Blackrock was a fashionable seaside resort, with much of the Irish Court passing its summers there, and a number of notable individuals and families taking homes in the neighbourhood, for example Nicholas Lawless, later Lord Cluncurry, and the FitzGeralds, who pent large parts of the year at nearby Frescati.