Vesuvius in Eruption – Joseph Wright of Derby

The painting that I have chosen to compose for is Vesuvius in Eruption by Joseph Wright of Derby.  Derby created this painting as part of a collection focusing on Mount Vesuvius, located in the southeast of Italy, just 9km east of Naples (Wallis, 1997).  There are differing reports on whether Wright was present for an eruption of the volcano, however we know that he actively researched the volcano during his stay (Taylor, 2015).

Painted during the infancy of the romantic period, strong traces of the sublime can be seen within this painting, focusing on the quality of greatness found within nature (Taylor, 2015).  The expansive canvas immediately emphasises the power of the volcano, aided by the dwarfing of the local natural and human life. The ecology is an area that this composition will endeavour to reflect through an effective morphology that can display how these different elements of the painting interact.

This piece begins in the shadows of the painting, indicated by the high levels of EQ and continuous droning low rumbles reflecting distance from the volcano.  Conversely, the sounds of water are delicate and clear and can be heard coming onto the shore, slowly this also becomes muted by EQ as the listener travels across the water to the populated area. Human life will be connoted by layers of human voice and sounds of a city scape. Finally, this piece will progress towards its climax as the listener climbs the volcano to the explosive eruption at the top of the painting. Proceeding this, the piece will begin to recede back into the darkness of the night sky, with the rumbles of the volcano being left behind, opening up to the delicate sounds of the breeze and sound objects that reflect the light of the moon.

Reference List:

  • Wallis, J. (1997). Joseph Wright of Derby 1734-97 : an introduction to the work of Joseph Wright of Derby with a catalogue of drawings held by Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Derby: Derby Museum And Art Gallery.

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