Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
James Henry Butt, Lt
From an album by James Henry Butt (1844-1936) containing 51 watercolour drawings, 50 mounted on separate pages, with one loose item and three blank sheets. They are mainly in chronological order and were presumably mounted in the album and captioned later, generally in pencil on the album page below the image, though some have monograph signatures, brief inscriptions and dates. The opening view of Cape Town is followed by 45 Eastern ones, mostly coastal, with two figure studies of Japanese girls. The last two drawings are an undated view of Posillipo, near Naples and one of Start Point, Devon, the latter made in August 1870 before Butt's next (home) posting in May 1871. He made all the others while second and subsequently third lieutenant of HMS 'Sylvia', survey ship, Commander Edward Wolfe Brooker (1827-70), which sailed for the China Station in late 1866 via Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town and the Andaman Islands to undertake hydrographic work mainly in southern and western Japan. No. 50 of 51. inscribed by the artist on the album page, 'Strada Posilipo [sic], Naples'. Posillipo was a coastal village just north-west of Naples, but now in its suburbs. As the drawing shows the steep ground above the coast road is a place where summer villas were built for wealthy Neapolitans to escape the city. One of those on the waterfront below the road, still called the Villa Emma, was formerly used by Sir William Hamilton when he was envoy at Naples in the late 18th century (to 1800), though part had to be demolished for later realignment behind it of the road shown here. This drawing shows the former landing place and the coast south towards Naples, with the Castel del Ovo projecting into the sea on the north side of Naples harbour, and Mount Vesuvius on the far side of the bay to the south-east. When Butt drew this is uncertain. His Japan and China album (PAJ2050) in which it comes second to last, is not entirely chronological and with the last item it is the only other European view. He returned from Hong Kong in 1870, and if he did so via the Suez Canal it is possible he could have done it then, although others from the 'Sylvia' are known to have returned home by sail via the Cape of Good Hope. If not, it suggests he was in the Mediterranean at another time but when is not clear, at least while in the Navy. However, since he also seems to have returned to Shanghai in 1892 (with his wife, their youngest son being born there) it may be from that period, given that the route would then have been via Suez. While it might also just be a copy of something else, the individualistic viewpoint suggests this is unlikely.
Credit Line: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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