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Sommer and his employees traveled through Italy, Malta, Tunisia, Switzerland, and Austria making photographs for the tourist trade, but his most compelling images are those made close to home at the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum. This graphically powerful, eerily affecting, and preternaturally modern photograph depicts a cast made at Pompeii by pouring plaster into the void left by the remains of a dog engulfed in volcanic ash and mud during the catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79. One 19th-century critic aptly made a connection between such casts and photography itself: “The photographs . . . reveal with a fearful fidelity the dreadful agonies of some of those who perished at Pompeii, and, while looking at the pictures, it is very difficult to divest the mind of the idea that they are not the works of some ancient photographer who plied his lens and camera immediately after the eruption had ceased, so forcibly do they carry the mind back to the time and place of the awful immurement of both a town and its people.”

Details

  • Title: Dog, Pompeii
  • Creator: Giorgio Sommer
  • Creator Lifespan: 1834 - 1914
  • Creator Nationality: Italian
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Date: c. 1870
  • Physical Dimensions: w64 x h49.2 cm (sheet)
  • Type: Photographs
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Albumen silver print from glass negative
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by the Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors

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