Sebastian Pether (English, 1790–1844).
Eruption of Vesuvius with Destruction of a Roman City, 1824.
Oil on canvas; frame with wood; attachments imitating lava.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Grant Walker Fund
Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987).
Mount Vesuvius, 1985.
Acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen.
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Founding Collection.
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Source: Getty Museum
Organized around three themes— decadence, apocalypse, and resurrection—this exhibition addresses the potent and continuing legacy of Pompeii in the modern imagination.
“The variety of objects on display underscores our preoccupation with this major historical event,” explains Kenneth Lapatin, associate curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum.. “We continually reshape the past to suit the needs of the present, and the Getty Villa itself is the perfect space for this exhibition, because the site is a re-imagined example of a building destroyed by Vesuvius.”
The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, Resurrection begins with modern representations of Pompeian decadence. The prevailing idea that the cataclysmic eruption that destroyed the Vesuvian cities in A.D. 79 was a justly deserved punishment for sins has pervaded popular consciousness through art and literature up to the present day. This notion has inspired artists and provided a vehicle to present sensual scenes or subversive themes in an acceptable setting. A highlight of this section is Francesco Netti’s most famous work, "Gladiator Fight during a Meal at Pompeii" (1880, Naples, Museo di Capodimonte), which depicts the aftermath of a mortal combat held at a Pompeian banquet for the entertainment of dissolute, drunken Romans, while ladies swoon after the victor.
Also on display are photographs by Wilhelm von Gloeden and Gugliemo Plüschow, some from Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s personal archive, which record some of the bestknown monuments at Pompeii populated by local youths staged in various states of undress.
Sebastian William Thomas Pether’s "Eruption of Vesuvius with Destruction of a Roman City" (1824, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts) dramatically shows the volcano spewing lava onto the ancient city, but his depiction of Roman architecture and figures in early-nineteenth century dress cross temporal boundaries. Also, embedded in the gilt frame are pieces of what appears to be lava, but is actually trimmed wood burl. Thus, what was intended to add authenticity to the imaginary scene is itself false. Alternatively, Andy Warhol’s "Mount Vesuvius" (1985, Pittsburg, Warhol Museum), with its vibrant palette and cartoonish effects, demonstrates that serial reproductions and kitsch are not just hallmarks of Pop Art, but also relate to the proliferation of images of the famous volcano.