Completed British 19th C, except portraits, Continental European after 1800 6 Could this be the Chiesa Santa Marina Vergine at Pogerola on the Amalfi coast?

Ruins Against a Seascape
Topic: Subject or sitter

During the period that Thomas Stuart Smith was painting in Italy, Pogerola was a small terraced village cut into the hillside on the Amalfi Coast near Salerno. Given the location, it is a place that has always been susceptible to earthquakes and landslides. There has been a place of worship on the site since the 12th century and it has been in use for most of that time, but it has also had many rebuilds and renovations. It currently has a bell tower, barrel vault and dome with lantern and is being used as the ‘Casa Parochiale’. The view of the church and bell tower in the Google Earth image does seem to show a strong resemblance to the shape of the building in the painting and the silhouettes of the Cefalu and Palermo Mountains on the other side of the horizon, although much has changed regarding the landscape and roads in the area. The curve in the tiered wall and gradient of the slope just along the road to the left of the painting are also very similar.

It appears that the painting is unfinished. Fine details have been left out on the bell tower, but there is more of an issue with the pedestal and shaft. The shaft appears to look broken but if you look at the shadow that has been cast on the ground there is clearly the shape of a cross. The negative shape of the shadow does not have a positive image to correspond to and could not have been made without there being a cross on the top of the shaft. This has not yet been painted, but it would suggest that there was a cross in place at the time the image itself was painted.

The outline of the cross is somewhat daintier than expected, given the thickness of the support. I also think that, despite losing its base, that cross (or a reproduction of) does look like it could have been embedded into the wall of the Church, as can be seen on Google Earth. The cross is just above the plaque on the wall behind the black car, on a shaft similar to the one in the painting. Although the sun is a little too high, a small amount of the shadow cast by the cross can just be seen.

Attached is a drawing by Edward Lear of the Church in June 1844. It is taken from a perspective further along the mountainside looking across and inland. When compared with a current image from Google Earth it appears that the central part of the church, dome and bell tower are largely unchanged. Clearly it has had several additions over the years, including having a football pitch built in place of part of the building. The Lear drawing also illustrates how the village has developed, with many more buildings having been built into the hillside.

Two composite images are attached:

*'Chiesa Santa Marina Virgine di Pogerola' (now the Casa Parochiale) and an image from Google Earth.

*A photograph of the dome from the road behind the church; an image of 'Near Pogerola', 13th June 1844, by Edward Lear that was sold at Christie's in 2005; a similar view (Google Earth) of the Edward Lear image taken from further along the hillside.

S. Elin Jones, Entry reviewed by Art UK

2 attachments

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The church has been identified as Santa Marina Vergine at Pogerola, on the Amalfi Coast. Art UK’s record has been updated and the new information will be visible on the website in due course.

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


Anselm Bassano,

The contemporary buildings do appear o be a good match for the painting. In this case, the distant coastline will be Agropoli and the Cilento, rather than Cefalu' and Palermo which are approximately 200 miles away and not visible from the Amalfi coastline.

S. Elin Jones,

Yes that's very possible.
That would make much more sense.

I'd be happy with that as the likely location: its bang-on for the Amalfi area in which Smith was mainly working. As already observed Sicily is way out of sight, though he did visit Palermo. What's the SS collection view?