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July 22 Art Minute: Christen Schiellerup Købke, The Bay of Naples

Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Art Museum, Toledo Museum
Christen Schiellerup Købke (Danish, 1810-1848), The Bay of Naples. Oil on canvas, 1843. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1993.18. Gallery 31

With its sharp focus and intense light, "The Bay of Naples" is an alluring combination of Danish artist Christen Schiellerup Købke’s artistic vision and his firsthand experience of the Mediterranean landscape. A contemporary of fellow Danes the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), author Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875), and sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, Købke was the preeminent painter of Denmark’s “Golden Age,” which lasted from 1820 to 1850. 

After returning to Denmark in 1840 from a two-year stay in Italy, Købke worked out the finished composition of his colorful view of the serene Bay of Naples from sketches he had made at the site. He depicts five boats moored to a jetty that recedes into the magnificently blue water. Bright green seaweed-stained rocks and red-capped fishermen punctuate the foreground. Naples is visible in the distance at left. To the right is the medieval fortress Castle dell’Uovo, behind which looms the slumbering volcano, Mount Vesuvius.

This work is currently on view in Gallery 31.