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Giovanni Battista Borra, 1713–1770
Additional Title(s):
Upper image: Sromboli; Lower image: Pianta del Vesuvio Come era nel 1750
Materials & Techniques:
Black ink with gray wash over graphite on moderately thick, moderately textured, beige laid paper
Sheet: 21 3/8 x 14 15/16 inches (54.3 x 37.9 cm), Image: 14 5/16 x 9 1/4 inches (36.4 x 23.5 cm)

Inscribed in brown ink, upper center: "STROMBOLI"; lower center: "PIANTA DEL VESVVIIO COME ERA NEL 1750."

signed in brown ink, lower left: "Borra Archus. Del."; not dated

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawing & Watercolors-Architectural
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
aerial view | clouds | geology | landscape | lava | volcanoes
Associated Places:
Campania | Eolie, Isole | Italy | Messina | Napoli | Sicily | Stromboli, Isola | Tyrrhenian Sea | Vesuvius
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IIIF Manifest:

Although geology did not exist as a self-contained discipline in the mi-eighteenth century, there was considerable interest in volcanoes and other natural phenomena, and the pioneering research conducted by amateur natural historians such as Sir William Hamilton proved invaluable for the work of later professional geologists. Reflecting Enlightenment views of the natural world, one of Hamilton's geological correspondents opined:
I know of no subject that fills the mind with greater ideas than the volcanic history of the world…tis certainly a part of the great system of dissolution & renovation which seems the Universal Law of Nature, by which a sparrow, a city, a region or a word, probably, have their beginning and end.
Volcancic activity also had considerable aesthetic appeal and provided compelling subject matter for artists interested in exploring the notion of the Sublime.
Italian architectural draftsman and civil engineer Giovanni Battista Borra accompanied Sir Robert Wood on his archaeological expedition to Asia Minor and Syria in 1750-1. Borra produced a large group of drawings, ninety-eight of which are in the Center's collection, subjects were engraved for Wood's publications on the ruins of Palmyra and Balbec (see cat. 118). During the expedition Borra also made studies of natural phenomena, including drawings of Stromboli, the volcanic island north of Sicily. Borra resisted the Sublime appeal of Stomboli; maintaining a rigorous architectural draftsman's approach, he produced a precise and unembellished delineation of the island, in plan and elevation.
Scott Wilcox

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 77 cat. no. 59

Dare to Know: Prints and Drawings in the Age of Enlightenment (Harvard Art Museums, 2022-09-15 - 2023-01-16) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Edouard Kopp, Dare to know : prints and drawings in the age of Enlightenment, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, 2022, pp. 140, 141, 311, Fig. 4, NC87 .D37 2022 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

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