Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples

Image credit: Tate

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Joseph Wright toured Italy for the first and only time between 1773 and 1775 but drew on the experience for the rest of his career. In particular his imagination was gripped by the power of Mount Vesuvius, dominating the Bay of Naples and the surrounding area. He stayed in Naples from early October to early November 1774, too early to witness the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1777, and yet during his lifetime he painted over 30 views of the exploding volcano. It is of course possible that he experienced something close to an eruption while staying in Naples, since, according to Sir William Hamilton, the mountain had for many years 'never been free from smoke, nor ever many months without throwing up red-hot SCORIAE … usually followed by a current of liquid Lava' (quoted in Egerton 1991, p.166).

Tate Britain



Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples




Oil on canvas


H 122 x W 176.4 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Purchased with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, Friends of the Tate Gallery, and Mr John Ritblat 1990

Work type



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