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The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, John Martin, 1822, restored 2011, © Tate, London
On this pocket square we’ve used John Martin’s oil painting of the destruction of the great cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD. This painting works brilliantly as a red pocket square with the contrast between dark and vibrant colours and means it really stands out, especially when paired with a darker jacket. We particularly like the flat fold and more flamboyant Dunaway and you can learn how to create those folds here on our guide on how to fold a pocket square. See more details about the painting below.
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John Martin (19 July 1789 – 17 February 1854) was an English Romantic painter, engraver and illustrator. He is celebrated for his melodramatic scenes of cataclysmic events crowded with tiny figures placed in vast architectural or landscape settings. Few artists, have been subject to such extremes of critical fortune where he was courted by royalty, yet savaged by critics. Martin's first major triumph was Belshazzar's Feast painted in 1820, of which he boasted beforehand, "it shall make more noise than any picture ever did before... only don't tell anyone I said so.” Martin was also a skilled engineer and from 1828 turned away from painting, and became involved with many plans and inventions, which not completed in his lifetime his ideas influenced future development. He developed a fascination with solving London's water and sewage problems, involving the creation of the Thames embankment, containing a central drainage system, while he also developed plans for an circular underground railway similar to the modern day Circle Line. See more details on the artist on his Wikipedia page John Martin.
Painted in 1822 by the English painter John Martin, this large oil painting imagines the disaster that famously beset the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum when Mount Vesuvius erupted on 24th of August AD 79. The vantage point is taken from the town of Stabiae on the opposite side of the Bay of Naples. Mount Vesuvius is shown in the early stages of the eruption, the glow of lava colouring the whole landscape a vivid red, while the sky is convulsed by billowing ash clouds and shredded by lightning. More details about the painting itself can be found on the Tate Britain Website.
The painting itself was almost destroyed in 1928 after days of heavy rain in London the Thames burst it banks and the Tate Gallery storerooms where the painting was being held was flooded. The painting suffered severe water damage, along with a tear in the canvass and it was declared beyond repair and was basically forgotten for 45 years. However it was rediscovered in 1973, and in 2010 the Tate decided that with advances in conservation techniques it could attempt a full restoration which was completed in 2011.
The background is dominated by the apocalyptic scene of the erupting volcano Vesuvius, which casts a red light over the rest of the painting. Some buildings excavated at Pompeii, including the Temple of Jupiter and the amphitheatre, are visible in the middle distance. In the foreground are tiny figures of the citizens of Pompeii and Herculaneum fleeing, including the dying Pliny the Elder. Martin relied on the recently published Pompeiana (1819) by William Gell and John Peter Gandy for background information on the Roman town, and on Edwin Atherstone's 1821 epic poem "The Last Days of Herculaneum", published with Pliny the Younger's letters to Tacitus on the eruption.
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