Thursday, February 28, 2008
"Eruption of Vesuvius" by Pierre-Jacques Volaire
The piece “Eruption of Vesuvius” was painted by French artist Pierre-Jacques Voltaire. Voltaire’s painting was made in 1774 shortly after the 1774 volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It was painted using various oils which were then transferred and blended onto a panoramic canvas and resulted in this creation. “Eruption of Vesuvius” was produced in Italy, and was original made for the purpose of being hung with a corresponding painting of another volcanic scene.
This composition contrasts the extreme volcanic eruption and in the distance displays the nearby Bay of Naples, and its tranquility. The volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius is the focal point of the composition which is highlighted by the variation of a blend of, glowing oranges and other warm colors. By the intensity and fullness of the ash and smoke being produced through the top of the volcano the array of the danger and importance of this event is conveyed. The oranged puffs of smoke run up from the volcano to the top of the painting and stretch across the sky. Juxtaposed to this cluster of smoke is the placid blue sky filled with distant white puffy clouds. Below these clouds lies a serene, shining body of water. Along side the base of the volcano and stream of molten lava is many rock structures in earth tones. A subtle detail in the painting is the small, proportionate to volcano, silhouettes of people.
In this scene the eruption of Mount Vesuvius is occurring and there are people running for their lives. Subtly it is shown that some of these people have linked arms to hold each other for safety and support. One may question why the artist decided to depict the scene from this point of view. Also it is wondered if the bolder rock is used to show separation between the calm and disastrous areas, or what its purpose is.