Towards the end of his ten year stay in Rome, Lear visited Sicily, from 3 May to 19 July 1847. He travelled with John Proby, heir to the Earl of Carysfort. They arrived at Syracuse on 8 June and Lear was particularly impressed by 'the vast quarries whence this city was dug' (letter to the artist's eldest sister Ann, 17 June 1847; see V. Noakes, Edward Lear 1812-1888, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London, 1985, p. 104, under no. 19) and which famously served as a prison for the defeated Athenians in 414 B.C. Lear executed a number of drawings of Syracuse, looking over the peninsular of Ortygia from the quarries, and in 1853, exhibited at the Royal Academy a five-foot oil of the subject (see Noakes, op.cit., pp. 142-3, no. 49, for an oil sketch for this picture). However, the present drawing, a finished work made back in the studio, differs from these other views in its long format and in that the forms of the rocks in the foreground are less attention-seeking, thus leading the eye to concentrate more on the plain and the peninsular of Ortygia beyond.