Wright emphasises the drama of the erupting Vesuvius through contrasts: between the tranquillity of the sea and the violence of the volcano, the cool light reflected from the moon and clouds with the hellish spewing of fire and lava. In comparison to the volatile power of the volcano, the tiny foreground figures stress man's insignificance before the sublime
grandeur of nature. Wright did not witness the eruption of Vesuvius in 1777, but it clearly spurred his imagination. He returned repeatedly to the subject, and produced over thirty views of the volcano.