Vesuvius in Art

Volcano and Myth

The Departure of Charles of Bourbon for Spain Viewed from the Land (1760's) by Antonio JoliMuseo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

The 18th Century: Birth of the Kingdom of Naples

Vesuvius has a symbolic significance that forges a unique local identity. It is part of Naples' direct environment and allows historians to build the volcano's myth. 

Equestrian Portrait of Charles of Bourbon (mid 18th century) by Francesco LianiMuseo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

After his conquest of Naples in 1734, Charles of Bourbon ruled the Kingdom and elevated the city of Naples. He knew that a kingdom had to rely on identifiable cultural symbols, such as Mount Vesuvius.

Vesuvius' eruption (1782) by Pierre Jacques VolaireMuseo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

Vesuvius always made Naples' landscapes attractive and distinguishable for those within and outside the Kingdom. The French painter Pierre Jacques Volaire chose to depict an eruption at its climax.

The Departure of Charles of Bourbon for Spain Viewed from the Land (1760's) by Antonio JoliMuseo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

Large topographic points of view are what characterized the 'vedute' - a new way of painting landscapes in the 18th century. This is the solemn moment of Charles' departure for Spain, painted by Antonio Joli.

Morning below Vesuvius (1882) by Gioacchino TomaMuseo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

19th Century: Between Romantism & Impressionism

Vesuvius has the power to evoke a bygone era, rooted in romantic melancholia. It can also be considered a subject for painting in its own right, where artists observe the atmospheric variations of light at different times during the day.

Casa dei Capitelli Colorati at Pompei (1856) by Giacinto GiganteMuseo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

As a member of the Neapolitan "Posillipo School", Giacinto Gigante sought to capture many of Naples' landscapes. In the 19th century, the romantic admiration for ancient ruins attracted artists to depict Pompeii.

Morning below Vesuvius (1882) by Gioacchino TomaMuseo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

Vesuvius became a pictorial subject where artists could observe the variations of light throughout the day, similar to the French painter Paul Cézanne's studies of Mount Sainte-Victoire at the end of the 19th century.

Evening below Vesuvius (1886) by Gioacchino TomaMuseo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

Gioacchino Toma represented Vesuvius at different moments of the day. Thick strokes of paint and energetic colors illustrate the artist's further association with the Macchiaioli.

Landscape near Naples (1866) by Giuseppe De NittisMuseo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

The Macchiaioli were a group of painters primarily from Tuscany that formed during the years of Italian Unification in the second half of the 19th century. In an anti-academic manner, they studied and captured the vitality of the Italian landscape.

Vesuvius (1985) by Andy WarholMuseo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

The 20th Century: Mechanical Reproduction of Images & Icons

Is Vesuvius the worldwide logo of Naples? Andy Warhol's series on Vesuvius reveals the popularization of the volcano's image. Vesuvius has become part of our common imagination, functioning as a metonym for all of the world's volcanoes. 

Although the last eruption of Vesuvius occured in 1944, it has nonetheless become one of the most famous volcanos in the world. Andy Warhol's series contributed to the mountain's entrance into myth.

Credits: Story

Curated by Pablo Schellinger

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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