“[Briullov’s] masterpiece captivated the art world of Europe in the 1830s, winning the Grand Prix at the Paris Salon of 1834. Arriving in Petersburg in August 1834, it drew large crowds of viewers, including Nikolai Gogol. The painting’s massive size (approximately 15’ X 21’) and popular [classical historical] subject (the destruction of Pompeii, whose ruins had recently been discovered) made it one of the most famous examples of the ‘high’ genre of historical painting. It depicted a cross-section of Pompeii’s citizenry reacting variously to the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Illuminated by flames from the volcano and lightning in the heavens, they either flee, cower, shield themselves from the flying rocks, or look on in horror and wonder” (Robey 237).“Purely academic in treatment, [The Last Day of Pompeii] was introduced to the public under the banner of Romanticism, and for the first time in Russia the success of a painting became a social event. The Last Day of Pompeiiwas abundant with life . . . the movement of figures,
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Nikolai Gogol, Pompeii, Alexander Pushkin, Mount Vesuvius, entire silent language