The present painting belongs to a major series of views commissioned by Lord Brudenell, himself the subject of portraits by Batoni (fig. 1) and Mengs, as part of a series showing towns he had visited on the Grand Tour. Joli, who was born at Modena, had a peripatetic career as a painter of decorative frescoes and theater scenery, of capricci and veduti. He worked in London from 1744-1748, where he executed schemes for both Chesterfield House and Richmond House adjoining Montagu House, which Brudenell's mother inherited. In the 1750s he was again working in Italy. After a visit to Naples he was in Venice in October 1754, Naples in 1729, and Venice again in 1760. His movements intersected those of Lord Brudenell, who may have employed him as early as 1754, at several points. Like Vanvitelli at the beginning of the century, Joli had travelled more widely than most other Italian topographical painters. Thus, he was able to supply views not only of Naples but also of many of the other towns Brudenell visited. Of the sixteen pictures of approximately the same format as the present lot still at Beaulieu, eight are of Naples and two of Messina, while Agrigento, Palermo, Malta, Florence, Tarascon, and Avignon, which Brudenell no doubt saw en route to Genoa in 1754, are represented by single views. Eleven more, including the present lot, were sold at Christie's in 1958. These comprised views of San Rémy, Naples from Ischia, Messina, Marsala, Catania, Syracuse (two), Trapani, Venice, and Stra (two) (Christie's, London, 2 May 1958, lots 43-51)--and three in 1973, views of Agrigento, Palermo, and Messina (Christie's, London, 11 April 1975, lots 60-62). Eight others are at Bowhill: pairs of views of Naples during the Carnival and the Bay of Naples, Paestum, Agrigento, and Pola. While in Naples, Brudenell also commissioned the large view of Vesuvius by moonlight by Carlo Bonavia dated 1757 and now at Beaulieu. The pendant to this, a Neopolitan coastal scene in the manner of Vernet, is at Bowhill.
John, Lord Brudenell, later Marquess of Monthermer (1735-1770), was the only son of George Brudenell, 4th Earl of Cardigan by his wife Mary, daughter of John, 2nd Duke of Montagu. The Dukedom of Montagu was revived for Lord Cardigan in 1766, and thereafter Brudenell was given the courtesy title of Marquess of Monthermer. Educated at Eton, he was sent to study in Paris in 1751, accompanied by his tutor Henry Lyte (1727-1791). After some three years in Paris they travelled to Italy, visiting Rome briefly in the spring of 1756 en route to Naples, whence they made an exceptionally thorough exploration of the classical sites of southern Italy and Sicily. Brudenell's visit to Naples led to his commissioning views of the city and elsewhere from Joli. Brudenell returned to Rome early in 1758 and, as Lyte's letters to Lord Cardigan show, soon began to acquire marbles and pictures through the cicerone Thomas Jenkins, spending over £2,000 on such acquisitions in 1758 alone.
Brudenell was in Venice in 1760. After his return to England, he became in 1761, Member of Parliament for Marlborough, a pocket borough of his uncle Lord Bruce, and a year later the barony of Montagu of Boughton was revived in his favor. He continued to add to his collection, which was kept at Montagu House in London and achieved some fame. Elected to the Society of Dilettanti in 1761, he attended the banquet in 1769 that followed the first assembly of the newly founded Royal Academy. He never married, and as a result of his death from consumption in 1770 Boughton and Montagu House were inherited by the sons of his sister Elizabeth, Countess of Dalkeith, later Dutchess of Buccleuch.