95. André Giroux

Paris 1801 – 1879 Paris

View of Vesuvius Seen from the Ruins of Pompeii, c. 1827

The first archaeological excavations at Pompeii in 1748 captured the imagination of artists and travellers, and heightened awareness of the destructive power of Vesuvius. In this study by Giroux, however, the luminous silhouette of the volcano appears far from menacing. The strong symmetry and horizontality of the work give it a sense of stability. The composition is split across the middle in two halves, with the upper portion taken up by the mountain, enveloped in a purple haze and painted with smooth brushwork. In the lower half, the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter and the vegetation are rendered with a fluid painterly touch, which takes full advantage of the viscous materiality of the paint. This clear separation of foreground and background also seems to emphasize the dichotomy between the temporal and the eternal, the presence of ruins in a landscape as a symbol for the transience of man in the face of nature.