Vanvitelli went to Naples in 1700, on the invitation of the Spanish Viceroy Don Luis de la Cerda, Duke of Medinaceli, who had encountered him and his work in Rome when he was serving as Spanish Ambassador to Pope Innocent XII. The artist remained in Naples until June 1702 and must have returned several times subsequently.
Vanvitelli frequently repeated his compositions and given the numerous views of the Darsena in particular - no fewer than nineteen other versions are known - it is likely that it was one of the artist's most popular views amongst both local and foreign patrons alike. The present unrecorded paintings are versions of a pair of similar size in the collection of the Earl of Leicester at Holkham Hall (G. Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel, ed. L. Laureati and L. Trezzani, Milan, 1996, pp. 262-3 and 269, nos. 352 and 369, both illustrated).
All the known views of both compositions, which vary in canvas size, are of exceptionally high quality and although the general placement of the architectural components is broadly similar, Vanvitelli either changed the staffage or slightly altered the viewpoint in each variant.