Variations on a theme : Vesuvius.

A View of Naples through a Window, 1824, by Franz Ludwig Catel (German, 1778-1856).

Franz Ludwig Catel worked in Rome and later traveled south to Naples. This painting presents that city’s most distinctive attraction: Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano that appears against an otherwise calm sky. Catel portrayed the scene from within a hotel room, contrasting the potentially overwhelming force of nature with the illusion of protection offered by distance and enclosed space.

Catel lived most of his life in Rome, where he usually painted landscapes and peasant scenes that were very popular with tourists. He often traveled through Italy, and in 1824 he visited Naples with the famous German neoclassical architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781–1841). Schinkel noted in his diary that the two friends had rented an apartment in the “Albergo alla Grand Europa.” It must have been from that apartment that Catel painted this captivating view of a sun-drenched afternoon in Naples. We will never know whether Mount Vesuvius actually released a smoke plume when this view was painted, but it certainly adds drama to the composition.
Glaucus and Nydia by Lawrence Alma Tadema British (1836-1912).

“It was one of the few moments in her brief and troubled life that it was sweet to treasure.” Weaving a rose garland as a present for her beloved master Glaucus, the blind servant Nydia resists speaking of her love for him. The scene is based on Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s enormously popular historical novel The Last Days of Pompeii (published in 1835), a melodramatic epic set in ancient Roman times, which culminates with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Responding to the 19th-century appetite for things antique, the artist filled his historical scenes with depictions of Roman frescoes and statuary. Dutch by birth, Alma-Tadema made this picture in Brussels for a London art dealer. The demand on him for more such paintings became so great that he moved to England, achieving great financial and social success.
Eruption of Vesuvius in 1872, Giorgio Sommer, 1872.

Sommer was born in Frankfurt & became one of the most prolific and important photographers of the 19th century. During his long career, he captured thousands of images of archeological ruins, landscapes, art objects and portraits. Sommer’s catalog included images from the Vatican Museum, the National Archeological Museum at Naples, the Roman ruins at Pompeii, as well as street and architectural scenes of Naples, Florence, Rome, Capri and Sicily. Sommer published his comprehensive album Dintorni di Napoli which contained over one hundred images of everyday scenes in Naples. In April 1872, he documented a very large eruption of Mount Vesusius in a series of stunning photographs.
Eruption of Mount Vesuvius, seen from the Ponte della Maddalena, Naples, Francesco Piranesi, after Louis Jean Desprez, c. 1783.

An Eruption of Vesuvius 1824 by Johan Christian Dahl.

Dahl visited Vesuvius just before Christmas 1820, to witness its eruptions at close-hand. He immediately made an oil sketch (Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen) that served as a basis for the painting above, completed four years later for Prince Christian Frederik, later King Christian VIII of Denmark. Vesuvius has attracted artists and Grand Tourists alike since the rediscovery of Pompeii in the mid-eighteenth century, offering a vision of the Sublime that served as a counterpoint to the austerity of Neoclassicism.
Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples c.1776-80. Joseph Wright of Derby 1734-1797.
Joseph Wright of Derby – Vesuvius from Portici c, 1774-1776.

Mount Vesuvius at Midnight, 1868 by Albert Bierstadt (American, 1830-1902).

For centuries, artists and tourists were attracted to Mount Vesuvius, a volcano near Naples.
While living in London in 1868, Albert Bierstadt heard that Vesuvius had erupted once again, and rushed immediately to Italy. It is not certain that the artist actually saw the cataclysm, although the painting presents a convincing image of the ash and lava spewed by the volcano. This is a smaller version of a larger canvas now lost.

Pierre-Jacques Volaire, (1729 – 1790s), Eruption of Mount Vesuvius, c. 1770s.

Sebastian Pether – Eruption of Vesuvius with Destruction of a Roman City 1824
Pierre-Jacques Volaire (Toulon 1729-c.1790-1800 Italy), 1770s.

Mount Vesuvius erupting by night seen from the Atrio del Cavallo with spectators in the foreground,
a panoramic view of the city and the Bay of Naples beyond

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