Oil on canvas : 65,4 X 81,3 cm
Frame : 78,7 X 94,6 cm
In the second half of the 18th century Mount Vesuvius had entered an intense phase of seismic activity. Eruptions occurred in 1771, 1773, 1774, 1775, 1776 and 1779.
Our painting represents the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1779, with its characteristic tall column of lava, seen from the harbour of Naples with its Santa Lucia lighthouse at left.
Such a paintings were made for so-called Grand Tour tourists, wealthy Englishmen who travelled in Italy.
At the foot of the volcano our unidentified painter has represented the town of Herculaneum, which was destroyed at the same time as Pompeii in 79 AD.
Herculaneum was a small Roman town, laying W. of Vesuvius, on the coast, between the volcano and Naples. Just like Pompeii it was destroyed by the eruption of 79 AD. It was covered by a thick layer of lava. Its theatre was discovered in 1709 and from 1739 onwards further exavations followed. Only a small portion of the marvellously well preserved town has been excavated, as a later town, which of course is still inhabited, was build on top of the circa 20 meters thick layer of lava covering the Roman town.