<< YCBA Home Yale Center for British Art Yale Center for British Art << YCBA Home

YCBA Collections Search

IIIF Actions
Joseph Wright of Derby, 1734–1797
Vesuvius from Posillipo
Former Title(s):
A Picture of a distance View of Vesuvius from the Shore of Posilipo painted on panel [ca. 1788, artist’s account book]
ca. 1788
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on panel
25 x 33 inches (63.5 x 83.8 cm), Frame: 30 3/4 × 39 inches (78.1 × 99.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
bay (body of water) | building | cliff | Grand Tour | landscape | lava | light | mountains | rowboat | science | ship | shore (landform) | smoke | volcano
Associated Places:
Italy | Napoli, Golfo di | Vesuvio
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

Joseph Wright of Derby first visited Naples in 1774–75 and made most of his sketches of Mount Vesuvius at that time. He never witnessed an actual eruption, but the idea of the sublime spectacle had a considerable impact on his imagination. The subject proved especially popular with his patrons. In the following years he painted about twentyseven different versions of the volcano in eruption. In this version we see Vesuvius from Posillipo, a suburb of Naples where Britain’s ambassador to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Sir William Hamilton, kept the Villa Emma, a small retreat dedicated to his celebrated wife, Emma Hamilton. The artist’s account book indicates the intended owner of this version was Sir Robert Wilmot, second Baronet of Osmaston, a Derbyshire landowner who paid Wright £42 for the picture.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

This painting is described in the artist's account book as "A Picture of a distance View of Vesuvius from the shore of Posíllipo painted on panel / Sir R[ober]t Wilmot, [2nd baronet, of Osmaston, Derbyshire] £42." (Lady Wilmot's nephew was the poet Lord Byron.) Wright first visited Naples years earlier, in 1774-75, and made the bulk of his sketches of Vesuvius then. He never witnessed the astonishing spectacle of the 1766-67 eruption, but he did see red-hot lava and much smoke. Eventually he produced in England about twenty-seven paintings in which he captured those remarkable effects of light, color, and atmosphere. The view is taken from the cape of Posíllipo, looking west across the Bay of Naples. The city is obscured by the high bluff.

2005 reinstallation label

The Critique of Reason : Romantic Art, 1760–1860 (Yale University Art Gallery, 2015-03-06 - 2015-07-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Classic Ground - British Artists and the Landscape of Italy, 1740-1830 (Yale Center for British Art, 1981-07-29 - 1981-09-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Timothy J. Barringer, Picturesque and sublime : Thomas Cole's trans-Atlantic inheritance, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2018, p. 30, fig. 23, NJ18 .C67 B37 2018 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Duncan Bull, Classic ground : British artists and the landscape of Italy, 1740-1830, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1981, pp. 14, 35, no. 31, ND1354.4 B85 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christie's Sale Catalogue : Important English Pictures : 22 November 1985, Friday, November 22, 1985, p. 45, lot 28b, Sales Catalogues (YCBA) [OCLC]

City Museum & Art Gallery Birmingham, Commemorative exhibition of the art treasures of the Midlands/City of Birminghman Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, 1934, p. 78, no. 297, N5056 B5 A35 1934 (YCBA) [YCBA]

David Oeters Corbett, An American experiment, George Bellows and the Ashcan painters , National Gallery Company, London, 2011, pp. 3135, fig. 14, NJ18.B41 C67 2011 (LC) (HAAS) Copy also available at LSF for use in Manuscriptsand Archives at SML (Yns72 2011 P437) [ORBIS]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 264-265, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Matthew Craske, Joseph Wright of Derby : Painter of darkness, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, pp. 77-78, fig. 43, NJ18.W95 C72 2020+ (YCBA) [YCBA]

Frederick J. Cummings, Joseph Wright at the National Gallery, Art Quarterly, vol. 34, Winter 1971, p. 477, J10 Ar81 + (LSF) [ORBIS]

Current and forthcoming exhibitions, Burlington Magazine, vol. 116, November 1974, pp. 698, 799, no. 107, N1 B87 116:3 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Derby Museums & Art Gallery, Catalogue of the Paintings by Joseph Wright, A.R.A., commonly called "Wright of Derby", together with some Original Drawings, and a complete Collection of Prints after his Works on view in the Corporation Art Gallery, The Strand, Derby, Derby, 1883, p. 15, no. 65, Fiche B41 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Mr. Colin Eisler, A guide to the superstars, ART News, vol. 73, October 1974, pp. 103-104, N1 A6 OVERSIZE (HAAS) [ORBIS]

Front matter, Burlington Magazine, vol. 132, June 1990, p. xvi, N1 B87 132:2 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

International Confederation of Dealers in Works of Art, The Grand Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art., Sixth International Exhibition presented by C. I. N. O. A., La Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d'Art, The International Confederation of Dealers in Works of Art, Oct. 19, 1974-Jan. 5, 1975. , Hennage Creative Printers, [Washington, D.C., 1974, p. 126, no. 120, N5020 N7 M48 C65 (YCBA) + [YCBA]

Joseph Wright of Derby : a selection of paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. [Exhibition] November 22, 1969 to May 1, 1970, , National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1969, p. 27, no. 9, NJ18 W95 U5 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Joseph Wright of Derby, 1734-1797, an exhibition of paintings and drawings, the Tate Gallery, 11 April to 18 May, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 31 May to 21 June , Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1958, p. 25, no. 20, NJ18 W95 A77 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Robert Michael Neuman, Baroque and Rococo art and architecture, Pearson, Boston, 2013, p. 400, fig. 14.21, N6415.B3 N48 2013 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Benedict Nicolson, Joseph Wright of Derby : Painter of Light, Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art, London, New York, 1968, pp. 78-79, 84, 92 , 125, 255, no. 269, pl. 294, NJ18 W95 +N53 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Benedict Nicolson, Wright of Derby: Addenda and Corrigenda, Burlington Magazine, vol. 130, October 1988, p. 755, N1 B87 + (YCBA) Also available online at JSTOR. [YCBA]

Painting in England 1700-1850 : collection of Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon : Exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, , 1,2, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, 1963, p. 57 (v.1), no. 40, ND466 V57 v.1-2 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Painting in England 1700-1850 from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, The Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition 1964-65., , Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 1964, p. 13 (v.1), no. 39, N5220.M45 R69 1964 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Morton D. Paley, The Apocalyptic Sublime, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1986, pp. 3-5, no. 2, ND1432 G73 P34 1986 [ORBIS]

Gillian Perry, Unit 29, Joseph Wright of Derby , Open University Press, Milton Keynes (England), 1987, p. 57, NJ18 W95 P47 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ellis Waterhouse, Dictionary of British 18th Century Painters in Oils and Crayons, Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1981, p. 427, ND466 +W38 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

If you have information about this object that may be of assistance please contact us.