Calame led eight students on a tour of Italy from September 1844 until March 1845. The artist spent the better part of his stay in Naples crippled by dysentery, and few sketches remain from this period of his journey, which lasted approximately one month. In the artist’s posthumous atelier sale this sketch was entitled "Environs de Naples"; it shows a view of the Bay of Naples from Pozzuoli. Two of four other drawings that are identified as having been made at Pozzuoli also bear a date, October 22, 1844, thus providing the likely date for this sketch, too (see Valentina Anker, Alexandre Calame [1810–1864]: dessins, catalogue raisonné, Bern, 2000, pp. 486–87, nos. 357–60, ill.). Two oils, both lost but known through reproductive lithographs, also derive from Calame’s visit there: Ruines d’un amphithéâtre à Pouzzoles (royaume de Naples), described as an "esquisse peinte," and Souvenir de Pouzzoles, described as an "esquisse" (see Valentina Anker, Alexandre Calame, vie et oeuvre: Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, Fribourg, 1987, pp. 366–67, nos. 263 and 269).
In a lengthy letter to his early patron John Revilliod (dated October 17, 19, 23, and 24, 1844, and received on November 16), Calame wrote of his experience of the Bay of Naples: "I say that I know it [only] a little because until now I have seen only a part of the gulf, Pozzuoli, Baia, the Cape of Misenus, Procida, and finally Ischia, where I am now. It delighted me at first sight; this brilliant light, these picturesque buildings [fabriques], the blue sea and the extreme clarity of the air give one a sense of ease. I cannot sufficiently admire the harmony of tones and their richness; I promised myself an ample harvest of memories, and, between us, something a little more useful—studies ['des études . . . ']" (see E[ugène]. Rambert, Alexandre Calame, sa vie et son oeuvre, d’après les sources originales, Paris, 1884, pp. 211, 213, trans. AEM; for Calame’s drawings of Ischia, which are dated November 1844, see Anker 2000, pp. 488–89, nos. 366–68).
This oil sketch shows traces of underdrawing, notably the ghost of a tree in the area occupied by the cupola, left of center.
[Asher Ethan Miller 2013]