Photo credit: The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum
The prow of the rowing boat (right) shows this is probably somewhere in the Naples area, which may be recognisable to someone.
This discussion is now closed. This has been identified as a view of Portosalvo, Naples, with the church of Santa Maria. The Art UK record has been updated accordingly and the new information will be visible on the website in due course.
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.
Could it be Rione Terra in Naples - the old Roman town of Puteoli - with the Duomo of Pozzuoli in the background? I guess that this ancient acropolis might have been on a grand tour back then.
That sounds a good suggestion, though the tower/ campanile to the right of the dome in Smith's image has seen some change looking through stock photos (search 'Rione quarter Pozzuoli' which throws up relevant examples on Alamy). The key point is that the Rione quarter church/dome is down at waterfront level on the port - now also much changed -though there are higher parts of the town all round. However, Smith's low-angle and selectively narrow view would explain why there is nothing high seen behind or left and right.
Thank you to Vee Watson, who has replied to the Facebook post on this painting, suggesting Valetta, Malta. Thank you, too, to Andrew Shore, who has sent Art Detective a link via email to images of Valetta.
Another clue as to this being a painting from Malta is that the boat shown in the bottom right-hand corner seems to be a Dghajsa, which if you search Google Images for that word you will see many pictures of traditional Maltese fishing boats of a similar design.
Also, see the attached composite. On the right is a view of Grand Harbour entrance of The Valletta and Port of Malta, from Liesse Marina. The statue of Neptune shown now stands in the courtyard of the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta.
The painting almost certainly is a view of Our Lady of Liesse Church in Valletta.
In addition, attached is a copy of a drawing by Willem Schellinks (1627–1678), dated to 1664, showing the Neptune statue, as a feature of the Fontana Nuova in Valletta Harbour.
And there is a different view by by Willem Schellinks (1627–1678), dated to 1664, showing the Neptune statue from the other angle.
Before there is too much of a general charge off in the Valletta direction please note; (1) that having looked pretty thoroughly at what there is on Smith's biography, I can't recall any mention of him visiting Malta or any other obvious picture with a clearly Maltese subject; (2) I do not think the boat is convincinly identifiable as a dghaisa, but there are many of similar prow appearance in Smith's other broadly Neapolitan region works, and they are chracteristic of that area.
(3) I have spent much time in Malta inc Valletta, and am not convinced by the parallels being suggested. Apart from Naples itself, I don't know the adjacent coast south round to Amalfi and beyond, or northward, but that is certainly the area where Smith spent most of his time and inherently a more probable general area - as the boat suggests.
Like Pieter I am not convinced that this is Valletta.
Kieran, perhaps I'm being dense, but I don't understand your several mentions of the statue of Neptune - are you suggesting that the large structure on the left with a row of people on top is its plinth after the statue's removal in 1858? If so, it seems to me to have a very different shape and size to the one shown in your first (composite) attachment.
That is what I am suggesting. Should it not be so, the search continues.
Your research focuses on the rowing boat, but there are a few other details in the painting that are perhaps more distinctive. I regularly visit Ischia, which is an island off Pozzuoli, and have asked a friend there if he recognises the location.
- One key item is the majolica tile pattern on the dome of the church, which should narrow things down.
- The other tower should help with the E-W axis to the church, that fixes which way the harbour wall must face.
- Another item could be a defensive bastion in the corner of the harbour, with perhaps a gun port.
- Inspection of the original should allow more detail to emerge.
The Majolica tiles on the dome appear to have a diamond pattern (similar to Positano), and the campanile to the right is apparently higher than the dome. However, that - plus the sea-level position close to a fortified harbour, the apparently small size, and the detailing of the lantern roofs etc - rules out Positano, Vietri and others immediately obvious on the web. There's also nothing apparently similar on Ischia or Procida.
Further biographical details of the life of Thomas Stuart Smith, as recounted in "Old Faces, Old Places and Old Stories of Stirling",
by William Drysdale (1852 - 1901), are to be found here:
This is possibly a view of the harbour at Syracuse, the sea wall, bastion and buildings are approximately OK.
I have spent much time in Syracuse, albeit long ago. The waterfront is steep/walled but I recall no church like that there (Majolica roof tiles are also not a Sicilian style) and the boat is definitely not Sicilian. Rione is so far closest in terms of church proximity to waterfront, but only if there have been massive changes.
Although the present day topography could not be more different, I think that the painting was of the 'Santa Maria di Portosalvo' in the old Port of Naples. The area is currently known as 'Via Marina. The Church was originally built in 1534 and would serve local seafarers.
There was massive rebuilding in the city between years 1889 and 1918 known as the risanamento and most of that particular part of Naples was lost. The Church is almost the only survivor of the old port, although had also had to be repaired due to earthquake damage.
* Current images from Google Earth. It can be found if you search for 'Santa Maria Portosalvo, Naples'.
* An example of a watercolor painting from the Artnet webside by Giacinto Gigante of 'Portosalvo mit der Kirche Santa Maria.
The waterline has also been moved further away from the Church due to the small port being filled in,approximately 150m away.
An excellent find. So it is not Valetta!
A drawing by Gigante of the same place, but from a different angle and with an even more bustling harbour, can be seen here:
The site notes that "With the outburst of the revolutionary movements in 1848 Gigante left Naples and moved to Sorrento."
A drawing of Porto Salvo, dated 1842 and signed by G. Gigante, is referenced on this website: https://bit.ly/2BgJ83Q
As in another discussion on Stuart Smith ( https://bit.ly/2vQvfV8 ), the following website has been linked to, within which it can be seen that Gigante had signed the guest book of the Hotel Luna Convento on the 9th January 1845.
Pieter, in the discussion on the Palermo Cathedral drawing, placed Stuart Smith in the Naples region between 1840 and 1847. Might Stuart Smith and Gigante have been travelling together, drawing and painting the same scenes, but with different artistic interpretations?
The attached composite shows a striking similarity to the main building and the church, but with a very different harbour layout. One source mentions that Gigante filled in many of the details in the 1842 painting of Porto Salvo in the studio, whereas Stuart Smith's seems more like an on-the-spot sketch. The question is, which of the depictions is the more realistic?
Very convincing. Just to say we have someone who owns Smiths house at Glassingall researching him through the estate papers and letters he sent to his uncle there. We are hoping for confirmation of some of these points but it will take time as the records are detailed and difficult to read.
I agree that E. Jones's identification, as reinforced by the further comparisons, is very convincing and would suggest the title here is changed to 'Portosalvo, Naples, with the church of Santa Maria' or something like that.
That the 1840s waterfront has so drastically altered makes Smith's drawing the more interesting and it would be well worth SSAGM trying to save the Gigante images, in some form, for reference. What is not clear is if the tower is the campanile of the church. Its style suggests so, but it is clearly on another building but perhaps one part of or related to the church. It's an interesting idea that TSS may have at least crossed paths with Gigante, but perhaps that will become more apparent in due course.
The general outline of Smith's life is clear enough, but with many gaps and details to fill in. SSAGM kindly sent me some time ago the early printed 'Memoir' of Smith prefaced by the photo on which his posthumous oil portrait in the collection by Alfred Wilson Cox is based: it would, however, be useful to know its formal title, author (if stated), who published it and the date/ place of publication. It must be quite scarce since - at least with the clues I had - I was unable to find a copy in the British Library or National Library of Scotland.
A local biographical article on Smith published in 1995 certainly adds to the 'Memoir' and ends with a summary but rather patchy timeline, of which a more solidly 'infilled' version is attached:-
The church, dome and campanile has recently been renovated. Google Earth appears to have caught this process which explains the variations in colour of the ceramic tiles on the roof. It is now closer to how it would have originally looked.
The following website shows the various stages of the restoration of the church and close ups of all areas of the building on the slideshow. The tiles on the dome, lantern and campanile are all of the sale colour and pattern.
That's a bonus: well found and its good to see the restoration work! Interesting too that some of the shots show the water is still not far away and at least one seems to include cruise liner, so it's clearly still in a fairly busy corner of the port. Perhaps Marion could now tie up the loose ends re: new title with the collection.
I've emailed the discussion link with a brief line to Corriere del Mezzogiorno since the Smith image may be another of sufficient local interest for them to pick up. None of the others we have seen shows the fortification at left: 'vedriamo'....
Smith's Memoir is probably the work of Cox ( with input from others) but the general summary was used at the opening of the Smith Institute and read by William Stirling Maxwell Bart MP. The portrait of Smith is By Cox and titled. Thomas Stuart Smith, Founder of the Institute. I will change the name to Portosalvo, Naples and add the Gigante notes to our system biog.
My link above to the Gigante drawing of the church seems not to work. Here is another option:
Previous message from the collection being unclear (1) it's a good idea to include the name of the church in the new title - it makes it a further useful web-search term: (2) I'd appreciate the formal bibliographical information on the publication even if the author is not stated: title (as on the cover or title page); who published it and where (the Institute? Stirling?) and the date if also given in it -f not I assume it was when the Institute opened, or thereabouts. Then it becomes possible to cite it properly if necessary, or find if there are other library copies.
The earliest one i can find is in the 1882 catalogue The Smith Institute Stirling, Descriptive .Catalogue. But it was also printed in part in the Stirling Journal and Advertiser in 1874 ( after the opening). Will add name of church to title although at moment i cannot get into it.