Seeing Nature: Volaire’s Eruption of Mount Vesuvius

With just 6 days left to experience Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, we have been posting essay excerpts from the exhibition catalog written by Portland Art Museum curators.

Eruption of Mount Vesuvius with the Ponte della Maddalena in the Distance, Chevalier Volaire
By Dawson Carr, Curator of European Art

Volaire shows Vesuvius in full, explosive eruption with a great fountain of lava that generates lightening and a torrent of hot ash and molten volcanic bombs. The vivid orange heat issues an unreal glow that illuminates the bay, silhouetting watercraft and people. Volaire tended to depict nocturnal eruptions to enhance the pyrotechnics and to contrast the violent volcano with a serene, full moon. While many of the artist’s works show only tourists thrilling at the spectacle, here he composes a scene of apocalyptic drama.