Karl Bryullov, The Last Day of Pompeii, 1830-33

Karl Bryullov’s brother Alexandr was excavating the Pompeii site in the 1820’s and Karl may have visited Pompeii in 1824. The Neo-Classical era was coming to an end with Romanticism sweeping hold of Europe. Bryullov painted the perfect picture for the time; the figures possess the beauty and perfection of Neo-Classicism, yet the painting’s Romantic theme of the awesomeness and sublime power of nature was well received. It’s a dramatic image of the sky raining black ash on the frightened inhabitants of Pompeii when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. Lava streams down the side of the volcano in the background while the buildings shake and crumble from the brute power of the eruption. Pompeiians try in vain to protect their loved ones. A ray of sunshine pokes through the ash cloud to light up the chaos that must surely have occurred on that fateful day.

Leave a Reply