(c) The National Gallery, London

OPINION Michael Tomlinson

NWR Issue 104

Small-scale Ambition

By the time Thomas Jones boarded the Swedish brig Elizabetta at Naples in August 1783 to return to Britain with his family, he had been abroad for seven years. Free from the financial constraints of commissions, in the months leading up to his departure he painted an extraordinary series of small oils on paper. Painted for pleasure and mainly of the views from his lodgings in Naples, they were still in the artist’s possession at the time of his death and so remained in the family, hidden from the narrative of art history. It wasn’t until after two sales at Christie’s in 1954 and 1955 that they were returned ‘to the continuous present’.1 It is this chance history, combined with their modest scale and startlingly modern look, that has conspired to obscure the much more particular ambition of one painting in this series, The National Gallery’s, ‘A Wall in Naples’...

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