This panorama shows the Riviera di Chiaia with, on the ridge above, the Castel Sant'Elmo and the Certosa di San Martino, with the ridge of Pizzofalcone and to the right, below Mount Vesuvius, from which solid matter is being thrown up with the plume of smoke, the Castel del'Ovo.
This view and the companion, both rather exceptionally for works on this scale on silvered copper, have some claims to be the most refined of the larger works by Gaspar Butler, a painter of English, or possibly Dutch or Flemish extraction, who was based in Naples by 1723, the date of his earliest known picture (Private Collection), and was in the ensuing decade to secure the patronage of the family of Admiral George Byng, 1st Viscount Torrington, who had employed a number of Neapolitan artists when serving in the Mediterranean in 1718-19, and Graf Aloys Thomas von Harrach, who was viceroy of Naples and Sicily from 1728 until 1733 and formed an outstanding collection of Neapolitan pictures. Butler's concentration on views of Naples was no doubt encouraged by the success of Vanvitelli and equally evidently influenced by the technique of Grevenbroeck. But in these pictures, as in the sequence of six canvasses in the Harrach collection, four of which are dated 1730, while the others are of 1731 and 1733 (see N. Spinosa, Pittura napoletana del Settecento, Naples, 1987, no. 267, figs. 358-63), he challenged the panoramic views of Tomaso Ruiz and anticipated those of Antonio Joli.
This view is taken from a point at the beginning of the Strada di Posillipo which was to be used by Joli and other artists. Until now it has been assumed that the Harrach picture of 1730 (Spinosa, fig. 359, illustrated in colour in N. Spinosa and L. Di Mauro, Vedute napoletane del Settecento, Naples, 1993, pl. 15), corresponding both in urban topography and in the arrangement of the boats, which is somewhat larger and on canvas, was the earliest representation of the subject. But the date on this picture, 1727, which was also recorded in the early sale catalogue, a fragment from which is attached to the reverse of the original English frame, is particularly appropriate for the companion picture. It is therefore highly probable that this is the picture for which the composition was evolved. Butler's patron was evidently English, and presumably closely interested in the Fleet. When Butler came to paint the Harrach picture he lowered the line of the hills to the north of Mount Vesuvius.
Charles Beddington, who is preparing an article on the artist, plans to publish this and the companion picture.