Street of Tombs, Pompeii

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Displaying picturesque conventions from English as well as Italian painting, this watercolor sketch by an informed tourist, Hannah Palmer, reveals the large extent of the famous excavations at Pompeii. Palmer painted the scene while honeymooning in Naples in 1838, exactly 100 years after the Kingdom of Naples (under Charles III) began sponsoring systematic excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii, the ancient Roman towns buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. In keeping with the pastoral foreground, Palmer’s Vesuvius is smoking peacefully, with the rim of the shattered ancient caldera, Monte Somma, clearly visible around it. The colorful regional costume of the goatherd in the foreground, together with Palmer’s use of gouache (bodycolor) for the highlights on the vegetation, recall the vedute of Pietro Fabris, who collaborated with Paul Sandby in London before returning to Italy in the 1760s. The geometrical city plan still clearly visible among the ruins serves to harmonize nature and culture while accentuating the vista that terminates dramatically with Vesuvius.