The Annual Girandola at the Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome

Joseph Wright of Derby1775/1776

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Liverpool, United Kingdom

The Girandola was a firework display staged in Rome, every year on Easter Monday, and at the inauguration of a new Pope. Wright was in Rome in 1774-1775 and would have witnessed several of these occasions. Girandole means the revolving wheel from which the rockets were fired. Wright’s view of Rome is a capriccio of the chief tourist sights of the day. It includes the Castel Sant’Angelo, Trajan’s column, the Pantheon and St. Peter’s with the Vatican. The distant viewpoint is an invention which permits the artist to include two colossal stone pines. He conceived the subject as a pair to his painting 'The Eruption of Vesuvius': “The one the greatest effect of Nature, the other of Art that I suppose can be”, as he described them. He painted several versions of each, but this is probably the first Girandola, exhibited at the Society of Artists in London in 1776.


  • Title: The Annual Girandola at the Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome
  • Creator: Joseph Wright (of Derby)
  • Creator Lifespan: 1734/1797
  • Creator Nationality: British
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Derby, Derbyshire, England
  • Creator Birth Place: Derby, Derbyshire, England
  • Date Created: 1775/1776
  • tag / style: Joseph Wright of Derby; Girandola; firework; display; Rome; Easter Monday; inauguration; Pope; rockets; capriccio; tourist sights; Castel Sant’Angelo; Trajan’s column; Pantheon; St. Peter’s; Vatican; stone pines; light effects; explosion
  • Setting: Rome
  • Physical Dimensions: w1730 x h1380 cm (Without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: Joseph Wright of Derby played an important part in Liverpool‘s artistic history. Following an apprenticeship in London to the portraitist Thomas Hudson, Wright established from the late 1750s an extremely successful practice in his native Derby, with his literal and rather forthright portraits, often of leading Midland industrialists, and with his famous ‘candlelight’ views of scientific experiments. Between late 1768 and summer 1771 he was based in Liverpool where he depicted several of the port’s leading slave-owning merchants as well as wealthy landowners from the Lancashire hinterland. ‘Richard Gildart’, a former Lord Mayor of Liverpool, ‘Fleetwood Hesketh of Meols’ and his wife ‘Frances Bold’, the coal heiress, are among the finest of this group. Wright was a friend of Joseph Tate, an early member of the sugar-plantation dynasty. Wright’s presence in Liverpool helped galvanise local artists and contributed to attempts to set up a local Academy. To find out more about this artist please follow this link; http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/online/featuredartists/josephwrightderby/index.aspx
  • Additional artwork information: To learn more about the artist and the Walker Art Gallery’s 18th-century collection, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/online/featuredartists/josephwrightderby/index.aspx Joseph Wright of Derby’s Liverpool years were the subject of an exhibition held at the Walker Art Gallery in 2007. Please follow this link to find out more: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/exhibitions/wrightofderby/
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Presented by Robert Neilson in 1880

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