For centuries, artists and tourists were attracted to Mount Vesuvius, a volcano near Naples. This awe-inspiring, not to say terrifying, natural wonder destroyed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, and continued to erupt from time to time, as it does to this day. While living in London in 1868, Albert Bierstadt heard that Vesuvius had erupted once again, and rushed immediately to Italy. It is not certain that the artist actually saw the cataclysm, although the painting presents a convincing image of the ash and lava spewed by the volcano. This is a smaller version of a larger canvas now lost.
(Text courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art).