Column of Smoke Issuing Thirty Miles High from Vesuvius

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Column of Smoke is a scientific illustration of an erupting volcano, drawn for the purpose of studying Mount Vesuvius. However, because scientific studies of volcanoes were still not taken seriously, this image went unappreciated for decades. In the early Romantic period, still during the late 1700s, the drawing was seen by many to be just another depiction of Mount Vesuvius as awe-inspiring and sublime. The image does feature characteristics that invoke the sublime—intimidating smoke, a tall volcano, and darting lightning. When the image was republished in 1823, however, it took on a new significance for Romantic culture. The Atlas of Nature valued the smoke for its visually-descriptive commentary on the atmosphere, and the image soon became popular in the scientific community. Consequently, the image is significant for two reasons: first, because it seemed (for an early Romantic audience) to portray the sublime, and second, because it was seen as scientifically descriptive by scientists of the late Romantic period.