24 January 2003
Joseph Wright of Derby (Derby 1734-1797)
The Gulf of Salerno
inscribed 'Gulf of Salerno painted by Jos. Wright exhibited 1785' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas, unlined
16¼ x 23¼ in. (41.2 x 59 cm.)
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possibly B. Nicolson, Wright of Derby: Painter of Light, London, I, p. 257, no. 280.
possibly, Mr. Robins's Rooms, London, 1785, no. 16.
Wright travelled to Italy, arriving in Rome in February 1774 and was overawed by what he called 'the amazing and stupendous remains of antiquity'. The influence of Italy was lasting, providing him with a series of subjects and motifs that he continued to rework throughout his career. In Italy his eye fell not only on dramatic subjects such as Vesuvius and the grottoes but also on more serene landscape subjects of Lakes Nemi and Albano, as well as the Salerno coast. On his return to England, Wright seized every opportunity to break off from portrait commissions and paint landscapes, often pairing up scenes of the erupting Vesuvius with pendants of the fireworks at the Castel Sant'Angelo or other Italian views.
The present work may be identifiable with no. 15 'In the gulf of Salerno', which was the companion piece to 'A distant View of Vesuvius from the shore of Posilipo' that Wright exhibited at Mr. Robins's Rooms at Covent Garden in London in 1785 (see Nicolson, op. cit., p. 278).
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