Completed British 19th C, except portraits, Maritime Subjects, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 43 Are these views by Thomas Stuart Smith looking east towards the Bay of Naples?

Boats on the Coast
Topic: Subject or sitter

Probably a view taken from west of Posilippo, looking east towards the Bay of Naples. Can anyone confirm this? See also,

The fishing boats are characteristic of the area. Interesting man, Mr Smith: would bear more investigation.

Pieter van der Merwe, Maritime Subjects, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Edward Stone,

This discussion is now closed. The painting has been retitled 'The Hotel Luna Convento, Amalfi'. A painting description has also been added to the Art UK record and will be visible on the site in due course. Two other records of paintings in The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum's collection have been similarly retitled as a result of this discussion.

Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Martin Hopkinson,

This view should be checked against those by Giacinto Gigante in an album of c. 100 pencil drawings in the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow [ no images yet on line]. Many of them are views of Naples , its coast and its environs from the north. The Gigante brothers have received quite a bit of attention in Naples in recent years
Copac records the whereabouts of publications on them in major British libraries - the catalogue of the 2006 exhibition held in the Museo Diego Aragona Pignatelli Corte, Naples 'I colori della Campania:omaggio a Giacinto Gigante' , Electa, Naples should lead one to other publications on views of the Neapolitan coast of the period. It may well be that Stuart Smith was aware of the work of the Gigantes and of other members of the Scuola di Posilippo
This is one of those cases where the consulting of books and exhibition catalogues may be more fruitful than searching the internet for the achievement of greater accuracy

Kieran Owens,

The scene depicted here would appear to have been painted in Amalfi, from a point on the Via Lungomare die Cavalieri, looking north east towards the famous Hotel Luna Convento (on the left) and the Torre de Saracena (on the right) on the Via Pantalone Comite. See the three attached composites for comparison.

The Hotel Luna Convento might also have ben a place where Thomas Stuart Smith stayed, as might be suggested by the presence of many famous international visitors who are featured on the hotel's website here, including the above-mentioned Giacinto Gigante:

It could well be that the hotel also holds a record of a Smith visit or visits and there might a similar piece of ephemera in their "Golden Books".

One feature of this discussion's painting is the far distant mountain range, which does not appear in the modern photographs. Another is the large craggy rock formation on the right-hand-side of the painting, which also does not feature in the real world at this location. Could these have been added to give the composition some body? Or is there another point along the coastline that looks identical to Amalfi?

2 attachments
Kieran Owens,

The first attachment did not upload, so here's hoping....

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Thank you all: I agree. I raised this one at least a year ago but it must only just had a collection response to become a discussion so I can no longer remember why I thought it was Naples -which can most charitably now be called a 'near-ish miss'.

Perhaps the collection would like to consider retitling 'Amalfi, seen from the west' or something similar and the other one -
perhaps 'Fishing boats off Amalfi' ?

thank you everyone. I will retitle the four images with this information. Its time he got recognised. Smiths history is more interesting than the short biog above. His birth is shrouded in mystery and it is assumed that he was the son of one of two brothers who possibly loved the same woman. We do not Know who the mother is. Smith was sent to school in France and his father died in the caribean leaving him destitute. This is where the uncle ( possibly the other brother) steps in and supports him if somewhat grudginly). He learns to paint at school and subsequently became a teacher to support his schooling. It is thought there are portraits in the south of france by him. Once older he moved to Naples where he thought he could become a serious artist by copying the styles of famous artists of the region. He often painted with Guiseppi Palizzi and the two styles are often very close. He also still did portraiture but did not believe this was serious art. Rembrandt and the great Italian landscape artist were serious art. His uncle continued to support him until the late 1840's when Garibaldi appeared and the tourism industry collapsed. He moved back to England and Northern Europe. We know very little about his life then but his 'uncle' died and he had to fight through the court of session in Edinburgh to get access to the estate but as he had to birth certificate or other information it was difficult and probably he should not have been successful. he taught painting in Nottingham during this time to keep going. He won the estate which for him was a nightmare as it rained all the time and people demanded his time and the light was not good for painting etc. He sold the estate and moved to London and started collecting lots of art. He bought David Cox watercolours and Harding watercolours from and numerous others from artists he knew. £3000 for a painting by John Philip- The Signal , which he took everywhere with him. The painting is not worth much more now. It was called Mrs Smith by his friends. He had this painting with him when he died of a stroke or something similar at Avignon on New years eve 1869. He was buried locally but unfortunately the site is now a car park and the city don't know where they put the bodies. Finally he is a great portrait painter but apart from Pipe of freedom and Cuban Cigarette never developed this side of his work but you can see the quality of his work in many smaller scale works with detailed figures.

Well done everyone. If Edward can link this to the 'British !9th c. except portraits' group I can formally recommend that this and the other three noted by Cliff have been correctly identified as being of Amalfi itself.

Kieran Owens,

My apologies for not having a better way of presenting them, but the ten attachments here give a very specific description of the opening of the Sterling Institute as well as some biographical details of the life of Thomas Stuart Smith. This might be of use in identifying other works from the collection form which a title or an artist's name might be missing. The article appeared in The Scotsman of Saturday 1st August 1874.

Kieran Owens,

Surely this car park claim is not correct. Mill is buried in the very much still-existing Cemetery of St. Véran in Avignon. If Smith is buried 'a few yards away', as The Sphere states, than his monument must still exit, too.

Kieran Owens,

I think that someone French person was pulling 'votre jambe'. The following link shows the site of John Stuart Mill's final resting place. I doubt very much if this important cemetery is now a car park. That said, it is France..... S Mill.html

This Google Maps image of the cemetery shows that it is still there, too.éran,+Avignon,+France/@43.949161,4.8255265,406m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

Kieran Owens,

Ok, that did not work either. The ArtUK site seems not to want to recognise the percentage sign that forms part of this URL. Try searching for "John Stuart Mill" + Veran and the University of Victoria site should be at the top of the results' list.

Thank you for all of that. The director has told me to go to Avignon and check it out...... There were also a couple of useful bits of info in the scotsman articles which i have added to our database.

Kieran Owens,

Should Sterling Smith Gallery's representative have any difficulties in travelling to Avignon, I am happy to make myself available for that onerous task. I have always dreamed of dancing in circles "sur le pont".

Can we wrap this up as regards better titling of the picture? The subject was properly identified early on in the discussion as a view of fishing boats off Amalfi looking west towards the Torre Saracena, and is one of several similar in the Stirling Smith collection.

Thanks, but the fact it is 'at Amalfi, near the Torre Saracena' -or something similar- is not yet in the Art UK title at least, which means the picture cannot be found by location-search terms. Its such specific 'identifiers' ('fishing' is another, qualifying 'boats') which are what enables effective internet search, including throwing up same-artist versions -of which you have a number- and of parallel subject material by others elsewhere.

Thanks : it's of course your choice what you call them but I would reconsider the priority order, working from general to particular. They are primarily 'Amalfi: the Torre Saracena [which is the immediate identifying building] and...' whatever else is worth (briefly) including as secondary, be it 'fishing boats off the coast' where present, 'by moonlight' or with the hotel if/where obvious. The hotel is not the primary subject or identifying feature in any of them and I'm still uncertain which building it is without comparative reference images. However, that's just advice from a user viewpoint.

Kieran Owens,

The Hotel Luna Convento is the building to the left of the Torre Saracena (or as it named on certain historic as the Torre d'Amalfi). The hotel's distinctive bell tower can be clearly seen in this painting, and can be compared to the attached modern image.

The composite image of old photographs will give some idea as to what the bay of Amalfi looked like prior to the development of the modern port with its piers and marinas. The large rock outcrops and formations are clearly shown, although many of them have since been removed to make way for new road and promenade developments.

To be perfectly accurate, the title of this discussion's piece should be "A view in Amalfi towards the Hotel Luna Convento and the Torre Saracena from the beach below the Convento die Cappuccini". The attached engraving, from 1839, by Smith's touring artistic predecessor, W. L. Leitch, shows what the beach end looked like prior to Smith's arrival in Amalfi several years later.

Kieran Owens,

Opps, the above should have read "or as is named on certain historic maps as the Torre d'Amalfi".

Thanks for the further topographical clarification. Titling is a collection decision, but hopefully on a rational pattern rather than an idiosyncratically random one in terms of their form, and bearing in mind what are likely to be the most effective user search terms. One would have to be using 'beach' to bring this up as a view including a 'coast' to find it from the one you suggest, for example, so the latter is probably a more generally inclusive word from a search viewpoint.

Kieran Owens,

You are quite correct and the point is well taken. "A view in Amalfi towards the Hotel Luna Convento and the Torre Saracena from the coast below the Convento die Cappuccini" does have a more convincing ring to it.

Well, the collection now has some further background for any new titling of the group as a whole so let's just wait and see what it decides, but it would be good to get these sorted out.

This version of the same view has also been hanging around for a long time in my 'pending approval' box:

Also this, which shows Neapolitan boats at night, probably fishing:

and finally this - which is apparently an Italian coastal town in the same general area, the question being where?

That would bring my overall list of items on which there has been no respnse from owning collections at all since Art Detective started to a mere 125!

Kieran Owens,

The coastal town in question above could be Praiano, which is located half way between Positano and Amalfi. The religious building would appear to the Duomo di San Gennaro, which its elaborate blue-tiled dome. The onion-shaped bell town might have been modified over the 160 plus years since this painting was most likely executed but it is essentially the same construction as is pictured in the attached photo.

Thanks for that, which is a good start but I have doubts, unless its known to have been unique. Praiano is a big church towering above a shelving beach, not lurking low behind a fortified sea wall (remembering that the Med is effectively tideless). Its also backed by mountains seen from seaward which are not present in Smith's view.

Linda Hornzee-Jones,

We were in Amalfi only last week, and I have just retrieved this attached shot from my camera. Hot off the press so to speak - here is this view from almost the exact same spot which I can tell you is on the beach at the head of the jetty in Amalfi, facing east. Interesting points to note - assuming the artist is an accurate recorder - examining the shapes and positions of the smaller older buildings on the skyline it is possible to identify some which have survived, and the large rock to the LC of the painting is surely identifiable as the rock substructure now supporting the arches of the roadway.

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Thanks for that shot, which usefully brings in what may be the end of the arcade of the capuchin convent (?), which is not clear on the painting.

Not to be confused with the 'Hotel Luna Convento', the convent was also a place artists certainly stayed in the mid-19th century, as in others. The Benedictine one at Vallombrosa in Tuscany was another such and still an abbey, but Amalfi's now a 5-star hotel.

Pieter, the prominent arcade in the photograph is not part of the former Convento dei Cappuccini, which, on the west side of the bay, would be far behind Linda as she took this shot. I think it's part of the cemetery, a structure presumably post-dating Smith's visit. In any case it's above the Hotel Luna Convento on the east side of the bay.

Linda'a viewpoint is much nearer the centre of the bay than was Smith's -- at beach-level, (more or less) below the Cappuccini, as Kieran has established. The core of Amalfi, that is the area centred on the cathedral, is not visible in Smith's view, being hidden, as it were, by the rock outcrop to the left. Albeit at risk of seeming pedantic, I therefore suggest "A View of Amalfi..' rather than 'A View in Amalfi..' as a title.

Thanks for that clarification Richard: I have only been 'off Amalfi' rather than in it and rather long ago. The only view I'm really expressing regarding titling is that however collections do it (for anything), is that it helps if there is (1) some consistency of form between versions of the same scene and (2) that the principal, specific identifying features get into the titles -if it can be briefly done- for online seach purposes. As I have now noticed in some cases, collections have hoisted in the specific 'identfiers' only in secondary caption notes - but these do not get picked up in online search, at least on the Art UK site.

Thanks, Pieter. I totally accept your argument re aiming for consistency of presentation in titles. I was not suggesting dropping what had already been proposed after my intended continuation dots (sorry, only two not three!). Thus perhaps: 'A View of Amalfi looking towards the Hotel Luna Convento and the Torre Saracena from the coast below the Convento dei Cappuccini' -- possibly with the word 'east' between looking and towards. All subject, of course, to the collection's own inclination.

Its entirely with the collection to decide, though where there are lots of the same place by the same artist and length becomes an issue the tack that can be useful to drop phrases like 'View of..' - which is pretty redundant. Our Everetts do the same thing and though not yet all yet made consistent, the form I've been using is 'La Rochelle: fishing boats in the harbour', 'La Rochelle: the Tour de la Chaine' etc.

The utility of that is that it gets the ducks in a logical row for all purposes.

Edward Stone,

Thanks, all. The collection has accepted these changes and updated the record on Art UK. I will now close this discussion.