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Grotto by the Bay of Naples. Moonlight, 1821
Oil on canvas. 22,2 x 33,4 cm
Inventory number: B180
According to his own notes, during the four or five months he spent in Rome, Dahl painted 28 pictures, including some based on sketches made at Naples. Thorvaldsen bought no fewer than ten of them, and moonlight pieces from the Bay of Naples must have held a particular attraction for him. Four of these nocturnal pictures have Vesuvius as their romantic fixed point – floating in the distance on the silvery grey water, its fire and smoke associated with the very soul of the world. A feature that all these paintings have in common is the placing of human figures in the foreground. They are safe from the forces of nature, but are allocated splendid places to view the sublime, moonlit landscape, and we – outside the painting – are assigned the next best seats.
Dahl was born in Bergen, which was then Danish, and trained in the Academy in Copenhagen 1811-18. The late Professor Jens Juel’s landscapes were of great significance to him, and he also made an eager study of the works the young artists sent home from Rome, especially those of Eckersberg.
Dahl met Thorvaldsen in Rome, and in a letter home he writes that in Thorvaldsen he had found a good friend and a splendid person. The many works by Dahl that Thorvaldsen acquired during 1821 are the best proof that the liking was mutual.