Last day of Pompeii, Karl Briullov
Karl Briullov painted this massive* wonderful, and need I add dazzling pre-modern version of DSLR Time Freeze portrait in 1827. It was very well received and was later almost revered by many artists.
Briullov during his stay in Italy visited the newly excavated Pompeii and was reported to be very impressed. He soon found Russian art collector Count Anatoly Demidov willing to fund his painting, and started off with his huge project. Briullov spent around three years researching for the painting - studying artefacts and excavations, even reading letters of Pliny±, an important witness of the Vesuvius eruption. Reportedly, the scale and ambition of the painting attracted lot of visitors, even when it was a work in progress.
The last day depicts the last day of the residents of Pompeii when the volcanic Mt Vesuvius erupted destroying the cities of Pompeii and Herculeanium in 79 AD. Briullov paints the scene of fleeing residents when the heavens above have opened as black rains from the hovering dark clouds with the accompanying thunder and lightning in the background destroying the Roman statues. The residents are frozen in various motions of activities as it was found in Pompeii. The painting is meant to depict the romantic insignificance of human life before the supremacy of nature, yet emphasising its ( human life's) cherished values like love, belongingness that makes it dear to us all.
The Last Day sealed Bruillov as one of the important painters of his era and won him acclaim and appreciation from not only many contemporaries but also many a reputed artists from successive generations. It was one of the favourite paintings of Stendhal. Danish sculptor Bertel Torvaldsen claimed that none of the painters living in Rome were able to even arrange such a work. Inspired by the work, Edward Lytton wrote the novel The Last Days of Pompeii. Pushkin reportedly wrote a poem after the painting. It is said that Sir Walter Scott stood before the painting for a whole hour and later even knelt before the painting. He is believed to have said “rather than a picture, it's a whole epopee”.
*25 square metre one of the biggest paintings of the time, now in State Russian Museum, St Petersburg, Russia.
± Pliny is reportedly depicted int he painting as the young man persuading his mother to come with him on the bottom right corner ( 5 O' Clock) of the painting. It is also said Bruillov also painted himself in the painting - the man gazing upwards towards a falling? sculpture or a statue at the left upper corner ( 9' O Clock).