Bonavia was a Neapolitan follower of Claude-Joseph Vernet. Vernet worked in Naples intermittently between 1736 and 1746, and the circle of artists he influenced includes not only Bonavia, but Pierre-Jacques Volaire, Alexandre-Jean Nol, Lacroix de Marseilles and Francesco Fidanza. Bonavia could be a slavish copier of Vernet’s compositions, especially in his early career, and sometimes the two artists’ works were confused - as the later inscriptions of Vernet’s name on the present painting indicate. However, Bonavia created his own distinctive style, especially evident in his pastel palette and chalky finish, which differs significantly from that of Vernet. Bonavia achieved renown in his lifetime - for example, Karl Joseph Firmian, the Austrian ambassador to Naples from 1753-58 is documented as having acquired seventeen works by the artist. Carlo Bonavia is well-known for reinterpreting features from the Neapolitan coast in an imaginative way. The fortress depicted here is typical of the Aragon defence system on the coast around Naples and strongly resembles the Castello di Baja, built to protect the ancient and busy eponymous harbour in the Gulf of Pozzuoli.
The attribution of these paintings was confirmed by Professor Giancarlo Sestieri at the time of the New York sale, on the basis of photographs (private communication, 17 April 2011).