Pompeii with View of Vesuvius in Eruption 1838, 1840
After Busse's painting
Etching. 435 x 607 mm
Inventory number: E392
On 24 August79, the people of Pompeii were taken by surprise when the volcano Vesuvius erupted and within a short time buried the city – and preserved it for a later age. The news of the excavations of Pompeii that began in 1748 marked the beginning of an enthusiasm for antiquity that before long spread all over Europe. Important catalysts for the message were the art historian Johan Joachim Winkelmann (1717-1768) and the etcher Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778). They each in their own way contributed to making the excavations known. And before long, Pompeii, Herculaneum and Naples were important stops on any young artist’s grand tour. One such was Georg Heinrich Busse. He had gone to Rome from Dresden in 1835. And in Pompeii he made the sketch for this etching. It is at once a portrait of the countryside and a picture of everyday life. The column of smoke from Vesuvius adds drama to the scene and tells us of the natural forces that again made their presence felt in 1838. In the foreground, on the other hand, we see a figure holding a large hoe while another is handing something out through a window – perhaps an ancient statuette.