ArtThe artistic power of Vesuvius in art history

The role of Vesuvius in ancient art

Throughout the centuries Mount Vesuvius has been the protagonist of several artworks, imposing itself as a symbol of Neapolitan culture.

The first works depicting Vesuvius date back to the 1st century A.D. where we can admire the mountain before the many eruptions modified its structure.

Later on, in the 18th century it was used in topographical representations or as an exercise in style. For example, Gioacchino Toma studied the variations of light during the day by painting Vesuvius at different times of the day, similar to what the French painter Cézanne did.

The 17th - 18th century and the Grand Tour

Starting in the 17th century the Grand Tour spread, which was the practice of young artists to travel through Europe, especially in Italy, to increase their artistic knowledge. Thus, Naples became one of the main destinations and Mount Vesuvius one of the most painted subjects, especially after the eruption of 1631.

Many, indeed, were the paintings representing the volcano in eruption, among the most important we recall “The eruption of Vesuvius in 1782” by Pierre-Jacques Volaire and “Erupting Vesuvius” by William Turner. The majority of these paintings analyzed the eruption of Vesuvius from an emotional point of view, showing the charge of the explosion and the lava with bright and vibrant colors.

However, in the 1800s, we have the opposite trend and Mount Vesuvius was mainly represented as a background image in paintings of the Gulf of Naples.

Warhol and contemporary art

In contemporary art Vesuvius had a new life, thanks to works of artists such as Palmieri, the contemporary Flora Palumbo, and the father of Pop Art, Andy Warhol.

To the latter, in fact, we owe the 1985 series of paintings entitled “Vesuvius”, depicting the volcano in 18 canvases with different color variations, to paint the different phases of the eruption.

This series represents Warhol’s first entirely hand-painted work in over twenty years, as the artist wanted to give each painting a sense of spontaneity and a more personal look. Indeed, Warhol was very attached to Naples and its history, thanks also to his friendship with the gallery owner Lucio Amelio.

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