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Sir William Hamilton's Vesuvian apparatus.

In 1767 the great collector and vulcanologist Sir William Hamilton designed an 'apparatus' to depict an eruption of Vesuvius, This remarkable combination of moving pictures with light and sound effects was perhaps the closest the eighteenth century came to the cinema. A document explaining how it operated has recently been discovered, as Bent Sorensen explains.

Even in the second half of the eighteenth century, when a vast array of instructive entertainment was used to disseminate scientific knowledge to a popular audience, Sir William Hamilton's Vesuvian apparatus, as revealed by a recently found document, (1) was quite exceptional. It was nor only far more spectacular then any of these, but was also the first example of an animated picture with sound.

Contemporary instructive entertainments, such as those seen for example in Joseph Wright of Derby's paintings The orrery (1766, Derby Art Gallery, Derby), and The air pump (1768, National Gallery, London), were merely instruments designed to demonstrate the wonders of nature. By contrast, Hamilton's Vesuvian apparatus was a work of art, reinforced with machinery, purposely designed to convey the tremendous force, the rapidly changing aspect, and the terrific noise of a volcanic eruption in a manner far more realistic then would have been possible with a conventional painting. It was composed of a large colourful painted transparency showing the eruption of Vesuvius, lit up from behind by a complex mechanical device activated by clockwork. Replete with special effects, it produced the striking impression of a continuous stream of lava and sporadic outbursts from the cratel, accompanied by thunderous blasts of eruptions.

Sir William Hamilton's observations of Vesuvius and the other volcanoes in the south of Italy began shortly after his arrival in Naples in 1764, as British envoy to the court of Ferdinand IV, King of the Two Sicilies, following Vesuvius's gradual resumption of activity in 1765. Although nothing in his previous career had prepared him for the study of volcanism, it was to become one of his must important interests, alongside his activities as diplomat, collector and scholar; which have recently been studied in the exhibition 'Vases & Volcanoes: Sir William Hamilton and his collection' held at the British Museum in 1996. (2) This is no place for a detailed examination of Hamilton's contribution to the study of volcanism, which have been fully discussed elsewhere, (3) but mention must be made of its presentation.

Hamilton's observations--the fruit of many days and nights spent on the volcano, often under perilous conditions--were composed in the form of letters to the President of the Royal Society, and first published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Some years afterwards they were republished in the most lavishly illustrated treatise ever published about volcanoes, Hamilton's monumental Campi Phlegraei, Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies, As They have been communicated to the Royal Society of London, Naples, 1776, illustrated with fifty four hand-coloured etchings 'from drawings taken and colour'd after nature, under the inspection of the author; by the editor Mr. Peter Fabris'. (4) The plates range from general views, eruptions in progress, to detailed depictions of rocks and lava specimens. Three years later a supplement with five plates was published, showing the eruption of August 1779.

To support his observations Hamilton always made a widespread use of images. In addition to his personal notes and diagrams showing the changing shape and size of the cone of Vesuvius, he employed several artists to make drawings and paintings of the volcano. Foremost among them was Pietro Fabris, but Hamilton's collection also included many pictures of various eruptions by Pietro Antoniani, Saverin Della Gatta, Antoine Ignace Vernet and Pierre Jacques Volaire. In his introductory text to the Campi Phlegraei, Hamilton emphasises the didactic value of the intages:
 'But being still sensible of the great
 difficulty of conveying a true idea
 of the curious country I have
 described, by words alone,
 particularly to those, who have not
 has an opportunity of visiting this
 part of Italy; [...] I employed Mr.
 Peter Fabris, a most ingenious
 and able artist, a native of Great
 Britain, to take Drawings of every
 spot, described in my letters, in
 which each stratum is represented
 in its proper colours; the exteriour,
 and interiour forms of mount
 Vesuvius, the Solfaterra, and of
 every other ancient volcano in
 the neighbourhood of Naples'. (5)

Already at the time Hamilton was drafting his letter to the Royal Society in 1767, he attempted to solve the conundrum of how to represent a volcanic eruption in a realistic manner, given that even the most detailed and exact painted representation cannot convey the rapidly changing aspect of an eruption. His choice of an apparatus may, although it is difficult to pin down any antecedents, have been influenced by a prevailing enthusiasm for scientific instruments, shared, for example, by his childhood friend George III. (6) However, his choice of an apparatus with paintings in transparent colours seems unprecedented, and appears to have been the first time a transparency was used in a scientific display. Transparencies were a favourite form of eighteenth-century public art, ranch seen on occasions of national rejoicing, and in the many popular pleasure gardens in London, where one of the attractions was painted transparencies with some kind of mechanism imitating cascades or fire. However the source of his inspiration must remain a matter for speculation.

The paintings are first mentioned in a letter from Hamilton to James Douglas, Earl of Morton (1702-1768), the astronomer and President of the Royal Society of London, dated 29 December 1767, giving an account of the eruption of Vesuvius in 1767. Here he mentions that: 'I have just sent a present to the British museum of a complete collection of every sort of matter produced by Mount Vesuvius' and a little further on he continues: 'I have also accompanied that collection with a view of a current of lava from Mount Vesuvius; it is painted with transparent colours, and, when lighted up with lamps behind it, gives a much better idea of Vesuvius, than is possible to be given by any other sort of painting'. (7) At the British Museum the gift (8) was regrettably entered in the register of donations without further details as: 'A Large Collection of Lavas from Mount Vesuvius together with a Picture representing an Eruption of the Mountain'. (9)

The violent eruption and its major lava flow toward Resin & Porrici and S. Giorgio, shown in plate VI in the Campi Phlegraei (Figs. 1 and 2), had occurred on 19 October 1767. The lava gushed from a fracture in the cone about one hundred metres below the crater, on the side toward Monte Somma. Hamilton's account of the eruption is too lively and instructive for his own words to be totally omitted:
 'on a sudden, about noon, I heard
 a violent noise within the mountain,
 and at a [spot] about a quarter of a
 mile off the place where I stood,
 the mountain split and with much
 noise, from this new mouth a
 fountain of liquid fire shot up
 many feet high, and then like a
 torrent, rolled on directly towards
 us. The earth shook at the same
 time that a volley of pumice stones
 fell thick upon us; in an instant
 clouds of black smoak and ashes
 caused almost a total darkness;
 the explosions from the top of the
 mountain were much louder than
 any thunder I ever heard, and the
 smell of the sulphur was very
 offensive. My guide alarmed took
 to his heels; and I must confess that
 I was not at my ease. I followed
 close, and we ran near three miles
 without stopping; as the earth
 continued to shake under our feet,
 I was apprehensive of the opening
 of a fresh mouth, which might
 have cut off our retreat. I also
 feared that the violent explosions
 would detach [some] of the rocks
 of the mountain of Somma, under
 which we were obliged to pass;
 besides, the pumice-stones, falling
 upon us like hail, were of such a
 size as to cause a disagreeable
 sensation upon the part where they
 fell. After having taken breath, as
 the still earth trembled greatly, I
 thought it most prudent to leave
 the mountain, and return to my
 Villa, where I found my family in
 a great alarm, at the continual and
 violent explosions of the Volcano,
 which shook out house to its very
 foundation, the doors and windows
 swinging upon their hinges'. (10)


Two eyewitnesses give some clues to the visual impact on the spectators when the transparency was set up in the British Museum. Matthew Maty MD, FRS (1718-76), Secretary to the Royal Society and Principal Librarian of the British Museum, reported that: 'The Picture [...] by the hints you were pleased to give me, makes now a very free appearance in one of our rooms, and gives to the beholders the most striking representation of that awfull phenomenon which you have with such resolution and constancy observed, and so minutely as well as philosophically accounted for and described'. (11) Sir John Pringle MD, FRS (1707-82), afterwards President of the Royal Society, wrote that: 'The representation of that grand & terrible scene, by means of transparent colours, was so lively and so striking, that there seemed to he nothing wanting in us distant spectators but the fright that everybody must have been fired with who was so near'. (12)

The absence of any allusion in the documents to a mechanical contrivance could signify that it was simply a painted transparency, but Maty's statement that the installation had to be made according to 'the hints you were pleased to give me' appears to signify that it was something more. It is therefore uncertain whether the painting in transparent colours mentioned by Hamilton in 1767, was at the outset part of a complete Vesuvian apparatus or whether it was only subsequently that the apparatus was made to enhance the effects of the painting. That Hamilton, at least later, clearly envisaged these transparencies as part of a complete apparatus is suggested when he presented not only a transparency but also a description of the apparatus to the great actor David Garrick (1717-79). At the sale in 182.3 after the death of his widow Eva Maria Garrick, nee Veigel (1724-1822) one lot contained not only Pietro Fabris's 'A view of an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a transparency, painted under the direction of Sir William Hamilton, and by him presented to Mr. Garrick', but also "A Letter from Sir William Descriptive of a mechanical contrivance to heighten the effect of the eruption, [which] will he given the Purchaser'. (13)

Although these transparencies and the apparatus must have immensely pleased, there are only a few allusions to them. The earliest may be a vague indication in Elisabeth Duchess of Beaufort's diary, where she wrote that on one evening in April 1773: 'we went to Sir Wm Hamilton's where we saw several Electrical Experiments & an Representation of M. Vesuvius as it appeared at the Eruption of 1767'; (14) the fact that it was singled out may indicate that it was something out of the ordinary. However, the only description seems to be the above-mentioned letter from Hamilton to Garrick, which has yet to be located, and the recently discovered document. This is a single sheet with a schematic sketch and a detailed explication of the apparatus by the French naturalist Francois de Paule Latapie (1739-1823), (15) made during his travels in Italy in 1776 (Fig. 4; for a transcription of the French text see opposite). The sketch offers only a crude view of the apparatus but allows us nevertheless to comprehend its workings despite the author's conspicuous misapprehensions of many technical details. It is, to my knowledge, the only known detailed description of any of these entertainments which explains not only how it was perceived but also how it functioned.


The position and shape of the different elements in Latapie's drawing shows quite clearly that the apparatus was set up for a painting showing the eruption in 1771. His truncated, awkward sketch of the reverse side mirrors to some extent the corresponding details at the right-hand side of plate XXXVIII in the Campi Phlegraei (Fig. 3). But the apparatus could probably be used with various interchangeable paintings, for example of the eruption of Vesuvius in October 1767, mentioned above by Elisabeth Duchess of Beaufort.


The 1771 eruption was not a major event, like those in October 1767, August 1779 and June 1794, but it was striking because of the formation of a spectacular perpendicular lava-fall. The eruption began on 1 May, when lava gushed from a fracture some two-hundred metres below the summit on the north flank. Hamilton described the plate in his Campi Phlegraei, as follows: 'A Night view of a current of lava, that ran from Mount Vesuvius toward Resina, the 11th of May 1771. When the Author had the honor of conducting Their Sicilian Majesties to see that curious phenomenon'. He explained the most important point in the engraving as: 'The spot from whence the lava issued. It ran into the Valley, between Somma and Vesuvius, disgorged itself into a hollow way, formed a beautifull Cascade of fire of more than 50 feet perpendicular fall, and escaping pure and in its fluid state from under the Scoriae, fell into the hollow way, and produced the finest effect, that can possibly be imagined. The original Drawing for this Plate was taken that night on the spot'. The spectacular lava cascade continued unabated until the end of May 1771. A broader and more decorative view of the eruption, drawn according to an inscription after nature on 14 May 1771, but not showing the perpendicular lava-fall was made by Pierre Jacques Volaire (Fig. 6). (16) His pictorial curiosity was however not matched by a preoccupation with naturalistic fidelity: several replicas of this painting exist in which he varies even the shape and size of the cone of Vesuvius.


The Vesuvian apparatus was probably set up in a darkened room, where the spectator would see the image shimmering in the reddish glow from the lava, lit up by the uninterrupted torrent of liquid fire in the cascade. The sporadic outbursts from the crater throwing out fire, and the intermittent bursting of lava through the side of the mountain, would create the impression of an incessant surge of flames, molten rock and billowing smoke, punctuated by the unexpectedly startling noise of explosions.

Whether Hamilton's animated painting--which in 1767 he had enthusiastically alleged: 'gives a much better idea of Vesuvius, than is possible to be given by any other sort of painting'--actually lived up to his expectations is questionable. In 1794 he described one of the most formidable eruptions known in the history of Vesuvius. He 'engaged signor Gata, successor to the late ingenious Mr. Fabris, to make an exact drawing of it, which he did with great success', showing its distinctive ash column (Fig. 7), but he did not mention again the paintings in transparent colours nor reiterate his 1767 claim. (17) He may have recognised, after thirty years of observation, that there was a limit to what might be shown, even with an animated painting.


The Vesuvian apparatus was first and foremost part of an important didactic endeavour, but it was equally the unsurpassed prototype of a particular trend in landscape painting, which included Thomas Gainsborough's Exhibition Box, (18) Jacob Philipp Hackert's moonlight transparency, (19) Louis Carmontelle's transparencies, (20) and Charles Wilson Peale's 'Perspective Views, with Changeable Effects, or Nature Delineated, and in Motion'. (21) In their different ways, all attempted an augmentation of pictorial expression by means of artificial illumination. The effort was crucial to pictorial preoccupations in the late eighteenth century and was more widespread than has perhaps commonly been realised.

Nothing more is heard of the Vesuvian apparatus, but there are allusions to some slightly later transparencies with dramatic representations of the eruptions of Vesuvius which may be related. A brief description of the show the landscape painter Hugh Primrose Dean exhibited in Great Hart Street, Covent Garden in 1780, which included a quarter-hour performance of Mount Vesuvius in eruption, complete with transparencies, 'machinery' and the sound of rumbling underground convulsions and thunder, (22) sounds not unlike Hamilton's Vesuvian apparatus. It was clearly influenced by Hamilton and may even be a copy or variant. Dean had been in Italy from 1768 to 1779, and was in Naples early in 1774, (23) which was probably when Hamilton purchased two of his oval landscapes with figures by Fabris, (24) and when Dean may in all likelihood have seen Hamilton's apparatus and Fabris's transparencies. The painter Thomas Jones wrote rather maliciously in his Memoirs that:
 Soon after, he went to England, and
 as a last Effort, amused the publick
 successfully, with a transparency
 representing an Erruption of M.
 Vesuvius--This, like the lambent
 flame of an expiring Taper, preceded
 the immediate extinction of his
 character as an Artist--After that,
 I heard, he commenced ininerant
 Preacher, And the last account I
 had of him was, that he had sunk
 into the Oblivious, but useful
 Situation of a Mechanick in one
 of Our English Dockyards. (25)

This device--or at least the transparencies--was mentioned again six year later as: 'A Collection of Mr. Dean's Transparent Paintings of Mount Vesuvius', when it was in the exhibition rooms over Exeter Change, Strand, exposed during the daytime together with Thomas Jervais's: 'Beautiful Pictures in Stained Glass, representing the most striking Effects of Nature'. In the evening Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg's Eidophusikon was presented. (26)

The dearth of detail makes it impossible to judge the possible affiliation of Hamilton's Vesuvian apparatus with a transparency mentioned in a document among the papers of Prince Charles, later Charles IV (1748-1819), King of Spain (1788-1808), in the Spanish royal archives. This concerns a demand for payment for a certain Santiago Bonavera, who, on 20 February 1783, went to the Palacio de El Pardo to set up a 'transparente de una erupcion del Vesuvio presentado a S. A. p. D. Emerico Pini en nombre de un napoletano llamado Morghen'. (27) This may imply that either the aforementioned Morghen had forwarded a painted transparency by Fabris or that there were other unknown painters who made transparencies of the eruptions of Vesuvius.

A somewhat different kind of instructive entertainment related to Vesuvius was exposed at Richard Dubourg's display of cork models in St Albans Street, Pall Mall, where in April i785 the mishandling of an unspecified eruption of Vesuvius started a fire that destroyed the show. (28) But twenty years later it was again a representation of the eruption of Vesuvius in 1771, with its spectacular perpendicular lava-fall, that was seen by Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864), professor of geology and mineralogy at Yale College, New Haven, Connecticut, at the unrelated Frenchman Dubourg's display of cork models in Duke Street, Manchester Square. It contained at least one element sadly lacking in Hamilton's Vesuvian apparatus, the smell of 'burning sulphur'. Regrettably, Silliman did not describe how the astonishing effects were achieved, but wrote spellbound that:
 We were conducted behind a
 curtain where all was dark, and
 through a door or window, opened
 for the purpose, we perceived
 Mount Vesuvius throwing out fire,
 red hot stones, smoke and flame,
 attended with a roaring noise like
 thunder; the crater glowed with
 heat, and, near it, the lava had
 burst through the side of the
 mountain, and poured down a
 torrent of liquid fire, which was
 tending toward the town of Portici,
 at the foot of the mountain, and
 toward the sea, on the margin of
 which this town stands. The waves
 of the sea are in motion--the lava
 is a real flood of glowing and
 burning matter, which this ingenious
 artist contrives to manage in such a
 manner as not to set fire to his cork
 mountain. The flames, cinders, fiery
 stones, &c. are all real [...] In the
 eruption of 1771, the lava ran down
 a precipice of 70 or 80 feet, and
 presented the awful view of a
 cataract of fire. This, also, by
 shifting his machinery, Du Bourg
 has contrived to exhibit in a very
 striking manner. He has not
 forgotten to appeal to the sense
 of smell as well as to those of sight
 and hearing, for, the spectator is
 assailed by the odour of burning
 sulphur, and such other effluvia
 as volcanoes usually emit. (29)

Many vedutisti in Naples, such as Pierre Jacques Volaire, (30) specialised in paintings of Vesuvius in eruption, often contrasting the red lava flow with the light of the moon reflected in the waters of the Bay of Naples (Figs. 6 and 8). But after Hamilton's spectacularly instructive entertainment, even Joseph Wright of Derby's majestic compositions may seem just a little bit tame.


Explication de la Machine Vesuvienne.

A Cylindre de tole mis en rotation horizontale par le plateau B dans la caisse de tole F. Ce cylindre est perce de toutes parts irregulierement pour laisser voir la flamme d'une forte lampe placee dans son interieur. Le cylindre dans sa rotation ogre one suite irreguliere d'ondulations enflammees qui imitent l'aspect des courant de lave.

B Plateau ou roue dentelee raise en mouvamens par le poids H suspendu au bout de la corde C, et qui fait tourner le cylindre A. Its engraine avec le petit plateau G, et correspond au plateau D, et aux volants on moderateurs I I I I.

E Plaque de tole amovible pour augmenter ou diminuer l'effet du cylindre.

K Conducteur qui tient au plateau B, et par le moyen des crochets P, at de la bascule L fait hausser et baisser les arcs M, N, O, dans des seen alternatifs, & raison de leurs usages.

Q Couvercle de tole qui en s'elevant et s'abbaissant, decouvre ou intercepte a volonte la lumiere d'une lampe renferme dans la boete de tole et a reflexion U.

R Couvercle conique de tole qui reflechit la lumiere d'une lampe de la boete X. Cette boete a une porte Y qu'on ouvre quand on veut repandre le plus de lumiere qu'il est possible, pour representer une vive explosion.

S Voile de papier derriere lequel est une lampe. Ce voile cache un maillet suspendu a l'arc O. Lequel maillet tombant sur le tambour T donne une idee du bruit qu'on entend dans le moment d'une explosion du Vesuve.

V Autre voile de papier qui sert aussi a cacher la descente du maillet.

a Lampes destinees a eclairer l'interieur de la grande caisse bbbb.

bbbb Grande caisse de bois qui renferme tout le systeme de la machine. Elle a environ 4 pieds de longueur, un pied et demi de profondeur, et 2 pieds et demi de hauteur. A sa partie superieure est un enfoncement f f pratique pour le jeu des arcs M, N, O.

Z Porte qui ferme la caisse, et qui consiste en une toile soutenue par un chassis. Cette toile est enduite d'un vernis qui la rend transparente, et sur lequel (dana la partie interne on a peint tres artistement des ombres destinees & intercepter a lumiere, et qui correspondent aux effets du cylindre A.

How the Vesuvian apparatus worked

The apparatus consisted of a wooden cabinet, approximately 80 cm high, 130 cm wide, and 50 cm deep, wherein was positioned the complex mechanism. On the moveable front (Z) was painted the eruption of Vesuvius in transparent colours, similar to the engraved plate XXXVIII in the Campi Phlegraei (Fig. 3), but, given the different proportions, the painted image was slightly truncated at the left-hand side and somewhat more at the right-hand side (Fig. 5).


The main mechanism, activated by clockwork, consisted of a rotating cylinder (A) perforated with irregularly shaped holes through which light radiated from a strong lamp placed inside the cylinder. The rotating cylinder was placed inside an enclosing case (F). The upper uneven contours of the case and of the exchangeable plate (E), placed in front of the cylinder served to delimit the light radiating from the rotating cylinder (the contours of the enclosing case correspond to the upper rim of the scoria and the contours of the exchangeable plate to the edge of the solid terrain on the brink of the lava flow). In its rotation the cylinder produced a continuous flutter of lights, and as it was positioned directly behind the perpendicular lava-fall in the painting, it create an impression of a continuous flow of lava.

The moving parts of the apparatus were driven by a simple clock mechanism (cogwheel B, D, and G) set in motion by weights (H) suspended on strings (C), and slowed-down by a fly (I). When the mechanism was functioning, it not only put the cylinder into rotation but also connected through the links (K) and (P), with the three arches (M, N, O) which the balance (L) caused to rise and sink in alternate movements.

The movements of the arch (M) raise and lower a cover (Q), which thereby revealed or concealed the light radiating from a lamp placed inside a box (U) (the upper point corresponds to the summit of Vesuvius). The second arch (N) commanded me movements of the cover (R), which thereby released or captured the light radiating from a lamp placed inside a box (X) (the upper point corresponds to the fracture formed below the summit of Vesuvius). The final arch (O) caused a mallet to fall down on the drum (T), creating a noise like that heard when there was an eruption.

I am grateful to the Ny Carlsberg Foundation, Copenhagen for funding aspects of my research. I would also like to thank Helene de Bellaigue, Irina S. Grigodeva, Olivier Lefeuvre, Olivier Meslay, Marianne Roland Michel, Kim Sloan, Madeleine Pinault Sorensen, David Thompson, Gary Thorn and Alan R. Woolley for their assistance.

(1) Bibliotheque municapale de Bordeaux, Fonds Lamontaigne, MS 1696, XXXI, 15. The manuscript is among the remnants of the archive of the Academie des Sciences, Belles-lettres et Arts de Bordeaux. It is preserved alongside an unrelated manuscript, 'Description de l'etat des fouilles de Pompeii au mois de Fevrier 1776', communicated by Letapie in the form of a letter to Jean Charles Philibert Trudaine de Mootigny (1733-77), which was read at a meeting of the Academy on 30 June 1776; it is one of the earliest and most informative descriptions of the excavations. The description of the excavations in Pompeii was published with an introduction by Pierre Barriere and notes by Amedeo Maiuri in Societa Nazionale di Scienze Lettere ed Arti Napoli, Rendiconti della Accademia di Archeologia Lettere e Belle Arti, Nuova serie, vol. XXVIII, 1953, pp. 223-43, but they do not mention the sheet with the drawing of Hamilton's apparatus. Latapie's interest in Vesuvius and the excavations in Pompeii had brought him into contact with Hamilton, who in his Campi Phlegraei, Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies, As They have been communicated to the Royal Society of London, Naples, 1776, p. 7, note A, acknowledged his indebtedness to Latapie for a description of the basalts found near the Lake of Bolsena.

(2) Ian Jenkins and Kim Sloan, Vases & volcanoes: Sir William Hamilton and his collection, exh. cat., British Museum, London, 1996.

(3) David T. Moore, 'Sir William Hamilton's volcanology and his involvement in Campi Phlegraei', Archives of Natural History, vol. XXI, no. 2, 1994, pp. 169-93; John Thackray, '"The Modern Pliny": Hamilton and Vesuvius', in Jenkins and Sloan, op. cit., pp. 65-74.

(4) Oliver Warner, 'Sir William Hamilton and Fabris of Naples', APPOLO, vol. LXV, no. 385 (March 1957), pp. 104-107; Carlo Knight, 'II Contributo di Peter Fabris ai Campi Phlegraei', Napoli Nobilissima, vol. XXII, 1983, pp. 100-110; idem, 'Sir William Hamilton's Campi Phlegraei and the artistic contribution of Peter Fabris', in Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie (eds.), Oxford China and Italy: Writings in honour of Sir Harold Acton on his eightieth birthday, London, 1984, pp. 192-208.

(5) Hamilton, op. cit., p. 5.

(6) Silke Ackermann and Jane Wess, 'Between antiquarianism and experiment: Hans Sloane, George III and collecting science', in Kim Sloan (ed.), Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century, London, 2003, pp. 150-57.

(7) 'Extract of a letter from the Hon. Sir William Hamilton [...] giving an account of the new eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1767', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol. LVIII, 1769, p. 12. Reprinted in Hamilton, op. cit., pp. 31-32.

(8) For the rock collection see Peter Tandy and Alan R. Woolley, 'The British Museum's collection of Rocks and minerals from Vesuvius made by William Hamilton (1730-1803) and Teodoro Monticelli (1759-1846), and Hamilton's Observations on Vesuvius between 1764 and 1800', in Maria Rosaria Ghiara and Carmela Petti (eds.), Atti del Bicentenario Real Museo Mineralogico 1801-2001, Napoli, 2001, pp. 171-80.

(9) Central Archive, British Museum, London, 'Presents', I, 15 April 1768 (Jenkins and Sloan, op. cit., p. 305). Also mentioned in the General Meeting Minutes, fol. 619, 15 April 1768. The Standing Committee of Trustees (Minutes, fol. 1171), ordered on 26 August 1768: 'That the Frame containing the Picture of Mount Vesuvius be painted'.

(10) Hamilton, op. cit., pp, 25 26.

(11) Letter from Dr Matthew Maty to Sir William Hamilton, dated 5 July 1768. British Library, London, William Hamilton Correspondence and papers 1761-1803, Add. 40714, fol. 47 (Thackray, op. cit., pp. 67-68).

(12) Letter from Sir John Pringle to Sir William Hamilton, dated 2 May 1768. British Library, London, William Hamilton Correspondence and papers 1754-1802, Add. 42069, fol. 61. (Thackray, op. cit., p 67).

(13) Christie's, 23 June 1823, lot 24. I am grateful to Gosem C. Dullaart, Rijksbureau voor kunsthistorische documentatie, The Hague, for providing me with a photocopy of this catalogue.

(14) John Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy 1701 1800, compiled from the Brinsley Ford Archive, New Haven and London, 1997, p. 66.

(15) See Denis Lamy, 'Latapie (Francois-de-Paule)', in Dictionnaire de Biographie francaise, vol. CXIII. Paris, 2000, pp. 1200-1202. Latapie's collections became later the backbone of the Natural History Museum in Bordeaux and he gave the Library three volumes which had formerly belonged to Montaigne, and subsequently to Montesquieu.

(16) Inna Sergeevna Nemilova, Frantsuzskaia zhivopis, XVIII vek. Gosudarstennyi Ermitazh: sobranie zopadnoevropeiskoi zhivopisi: nauchnyi katalog, Leningrad, 1985, no. 346.

(17) 'An Account of the late Eruption of Mount Vesuvius. In a Letter from the Right Honourable Sir William Hamilton, KB, F.R.S. to Sir Joseph Banks, Bart. P.R.S.', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol. LXXXV, 1795, pp. 73-116.

(18) Jonathan Mayne, 'Thomas Gainsborough's Exhibition Box', Victoria and Albert Museum Bulletin, vol. I, no. 3, 1965, pp. 17-24.

(19) Renzo Dubbini, 'II paesaggio dei Diorami', Eidos, no. 5, 1890, pp. 26-39; Birgit Verwiebe, 'Transparente Bilder: Kunst und Geselligkeit im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, Forschungen und Berichte, Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Museen, Berlin, 1991, pp. 229-42; eadem, 'Transparent Painting and Romantic Spirit: Experimental Anticipation of Modern Visual Arts', in Keith Hartley, Romantic spirit In German art 1790-1990, exh. cat., Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, South Bank Centre, London, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 1994, pp. 171-77.

(20) Pierre Francastel, 'Les transparents de Carmontelle, L'lllustration, 1 August 1929, no. 4511, p. 159; Georges Poisson, 'Un transparent de Carmontelle', Bulletin de la Societe de l'histoire de l'Art francais, 1984, pp. 170-75.

(21) Lillian B. Miller in Edgar P. Richardson, Brooke Hindle and Lillian B. Miller, Charles Willson Peale and His World, New York, 1982, pp. 185-87.

(22) Daniel Lysons, Collectanea; or A Collection of Advertisements from the Newspapers, 1661-1840; five scrapbooks at British Library (1889.e.5), vol. II p. 164. Cited alter Richard D. Altick, The Shows of London, Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1978, p. 96.

(23) Ingamells, op. cit., p. 287.

(24) Carlo Knight, 'La quadreria di Sir William Hamilton a Palazzo Sessa', Napoli Nobilissima, vol. XXIV, 1985, p. 51.

(25) Memoirs of Thomas Jones, Penkerrig, Radnorshire, 1803, Walpole Society, vol. XXXII, London, 1951, p. 12.

(26) Altick, op. cit., p. 119, the handbill advertising the attractions are reproduced on p. 124.

(27) Archivo General de Palacio, Madrid, Carlos IV Principe, Legajo 47. Cited after Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios, 'Noterelle su Volaire', in Melanges en hommage a Pierre Rosenberg: Peintures et dessins en France et en Italie XVIIIe-XVIIIe siecles, Paris, 2001, p. 219, note 4.

(28) Altick, op. cit., p. 115.

(29) Benjamin Silliman, A journal of travels in England, Holland, and Scotland, and of two passages over the Atlantic, in the years 1805 and 1806, New York, 1810, vol. i, pp. 199-200. Cited after Altick, op. cit., p. 96.

(30) Alexandra R. Mushy, Visions of Vesuvius, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1978; Mark A. Cheetham, 'The Taste for phenomena: Mount Vesuvius and transformations in late 18th-Century European landscape depiction', Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch, XLV, 1984, pp. 131-44; Madeleine Pinault, Le Peintre et l'histoire naturelle, Paris, 1990, pp. 256-59.

(31) Benedict Nicolson, Joseph Wright of Derby, Painter of Light, London, 1968; Judy Egetton, Wright of Denby, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1990.

Bent Sorensen is an independent historian. He is the author of numerous articles on French and Italian art.
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Author:Sorensen, Bent
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Date:May 1, 2004
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