Neapolitan charm

A leather-bound folio album of twenty-two beautifully detailed ink and watercolour illustrations of Italian provincial costume from the early 19th century are set to be sold in Tennants Auctioneer’s Book Sale on 29th November.

During the 18th and early 19th century, aristocratic Grand Tourists flooded Italy; it was an educational rite of passage taking in the history and culture of Italy. The final destination for most Grand Tourists was the remote city of Naples, with its sweeping bay, unpredictable volcano and the recently discovered ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

As today, tourists sought out souvenirs, which often came in the form of paintings. One of the most sought after Neapolitan artists’ catering to the Grand Tour trade was Saviero Xavier Della Gatta (1777-1829), who’s mastery of gouache and watercolour was renowned throughout the city. Frequently working for King Ferdinand IV, Della Gatta produced depictions of the Neapolitan landscape as well as detailed illustrations of regional costume, such as those coming up for auction at Tennants.

Placed in an album, away from natural light, the delicate illustrations retain a vivid intensity rarely seen in watercolours of that date. Each illustration is signed by the artist, and hand titled below. The illustrations are being offered with an estimate of £3,000-5,000 plus buyer’s premium.

Also included in the sale is a first edition of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. The book is one of the first small print run, complete with the tell-tale spelling mistakes and errors. It was bought by the vendor for his daughter, then placed on a shelf and forgotten about until earlier this year when he read an article about Potter rarities and realised he one of his own. The book is being offered with an estimate of £8,000-12,000 plus buyer’s premium.

A fully illustrated catalogue for the Books, Maps & Ephemera Sale will be available on our website, leading up to the sale, alternatively, please contact the salerooms for further details.


Illustrations from Costumi Italiani by Saviero Xavier Della Gatta – Estimate: £3,000-5,000