Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas 1834 - 1917
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas 20 x 27 cm
Bought from the Gow Fund with contributions from the National Art Collections Fund and the Museums and Galleries Commission / Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Fund
Collections record: PD.18-2000
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
This is one of a small group of landscapes that Degas painted early in his career, during a visit to Italy between 1856 and 1859. The view depicts the Castel Sant’Elmo and the adjacent monastery of San Martino, and may have been painted from Capodimonte, situated on a nearby hill. It relates to a watercolour and to a pencil sketch that Degas made in 1856, beside the last of which he inscribed a quote from Dante’s Purgatorio:
‘The heavens call to you and circle round you showing their eternal beauties and your eye gazes only to earth’.
More than once in notebooks he kept with him on his Italian journey, Degas referred to the pearly, opalescence quality of the Neapolitan sky, which he so beautifully captures in this small painting.