Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Vesuvius from Posilipo 1770s

Joseph Wright of Derby ARA 1734 - 1797

Vesuvius from Posilipo, Joseph Wright of Derby ARA
Oil on copper (oval)
18th Century
7 1/2 x 9 inches 19.1 x 23 cm
Joseph Wright of Derby Benedict Nicolson, Paul Mellon Foundation 1968 vol I Appendix B Paintings of''Vesuvius'' and the ''Girandola'' p284 nos 33 and 34
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Inspired by the artist's experience of Vesuvius during his stay in Italy these dramatic scenes of the erupting volcano are of a type that the artist was commissioned to produce for a wide circle of patrons. By the time that Wright travelled to Italy in 1773 he had been experimenting for over a decade with dramatic and artificial effects of light and with the chiaroscuro that is a typical feature of so much of his work.

Vesuvius erupting at night was not only a magnificent subject to express in such a manner, but also encapsulates a particular aspect of the Grand Tour that was beginning to fascinate travellers. Whereas previous generations had sought only the manmade wonders of the Renaissance and the classical past, the cognoscenti of Wright's generation were beginning to appreciate the sublime through landscape. An awesome subject combines, therefqrq, with an unequalled technical virtuosity in Wright's Vesuvius subjects, easily explaining why they were among his most frequently commisisoned works in the second hajf of the 1770s.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.