1788 Rome – Naples after 1842

View of the Island of Nisida

pen and brown and blue ink on wove paper, mounted on an album sheet; 235 x 316 mm (9 ¼ x 12 716 inches)

annotated at lower right L’Isola di Nisida presa dall strada di Pozzuoli

The view here is captured further north of Naples, along the road to Pozzuoli. The cliffs in the background at left belong to the Capo Posillipo that juts into the Gulf of Naples, connected by a stone bridge to the small island of Nisida further to the right. Senape has added some genre-like drama to his composition with a rushing high-wheeled sulky drawn by two horses in the foreground that contrasts markedly with the view of the calm bay.

While Antonio Senape was apparently among the more prolific of the Italian vedutisti of the first half of the nineteenth century, we know surprisingly little about his life. He was born in Rome, probably in 1788 (we know this only from a recently found document of 1815 in which Senape states that he is twenty-seven years old and a resident of Rome). The often detailed topographical and chronological annotations on his drawings ultimately provide the most useful clues to the artist’s life. In one of his surviving albums Senape calls himself a teacher of disegno con la penna (pen and ink drawing), the technique at which he most excelled. Indeed, he was probably teaching the same tourists that were also the patrons of his work. His drawings record scenes all over Italy as well as all the way up to Switzerland but it is the area of Naples that appears most often in his surviving body of work, suggesting that it was his main home.

The use of brown ink in the foreground and blue ink for the middle and background is highly characteristic of Senape’s drawings, and this was his startlingly simple way of applying color perspective to the medium of line drawing.

Leonardo di Mauro, Cento disegni per un Grand Tour del 1829. Napoli (e dintorni) Sicilia Roma e Italia nelle vedute di Antonio Senape, Naples 2001; cf. plates [12] and [17] for similar views