The Art of the Sublime

Joseph Wright of Derby Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples c.1776–80

Joseph Wright of Derby 'Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples' c.1776-80
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Joseph Wright of Derby 1734–1797
Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples c.1776–80
Oil paint on canvas
support: 1220 x 1764 mm; frame: 1461 x 1941 x 95 mm
Purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, Friends of the Tate Gallery, and Mr John Ritblat 1990
Tate T05846
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.

How to cite

Joseph Wright of Derby, Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples c.1776-80, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, January 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/joseph-wright-of-derby-vesuvius-in-eruption-with-a-view-over-the-islands-in-the-bay-of-r1105581, accessed 21 December 2014.