NEAPOLITAN SCHOOL. Il Lago di Averno - Castel di Baja - Sepolcro Campano - Archi Felici. ca 1800
Single sheet (6 4/8 x 9 inches). 4 fine miniature paintings together on one sheet (each 3 x 4 inches surrounded by a black border), gouache on paper.
A fine example of Neapolitan vedute, or landscape painting, which had emerged in the 18th-century as a profitable, and respectable, style of painting. Landscapes were, in part, higher in demand than depictions of Catholic religious imagery to buyers from Protestant Europe during the Age of the Enlightenment. This included the mainly aristocratic travellers on a grand tour of Southern Europe. Subjects in demand by travellers were paintings evoking memories of the place, playing the role that photographic postcards now fill.
The British fascination with travel to continental Europe began in the Georgian period with the institution of the Grand Tour. A nobleman's education was not considered complete without first-hand experience of the monuments and antiquities of ancient Italy, complementing his knowledge of Greek and Latin texts. As the classical scholar Conyers Middleton stated in 1729, "At our setting out through France, the pleasures that we find, like those of our youth, are of the gay fluttering kind, which grow by degrees, as we advance towards Italy, more solid, manly, and rational, but attain not their full perfection until we reach Rome." Later in the century, as the archaeological sites at Herculaneum and Pompeii were excavated, the Tour extended far south of Naples. The desire for European travel continued well into the Victorian period and now was not just the luxury of the aristocracy but also of the middle classes. This was mainly facilitated by the development of the railways allowing for much easier mobility. The Georgian obsession with Classicism was replaced by the Romantic movement, which emphasized a deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature and a general exaltation of emotion over reason and of the senses over intellect. Once again, travel through France, Germany and Italy provided scholars and artists with inspiration and indeed, the great poets Percy Shelley and Lord Byron were to travel to the Italian lakes, Florence, Rome and many other sites between 1818 and 1822 and Lord Byron were to travel to the Italian lakes, Florence, Rome and many other sites between 1818 and 1822.