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In ‘Vesuvius’ Andy Warhol represents the magnificence and grandeur of the Neapolitan icon in his typical Pop Art style. This is an ‘hommage’ to Naples and to its habitants.

For the first time in twenty years, Warhol returned to the technique of painting by hand for a screenprint with the aim of giving a personal and spontaneous angle to the image. He wanted to give the impression that the artwork was painted a minute after the eruption.

Inspired by the image of a postcard of Vesuvius, Andy Warhol distorts and manipulates the photo to obtain the final result. In this series, the artist created 18 versions with different shades, so that Vesuvius appears to be depicted in different phases of the eruption. 

There are two important themes in this artwork, the legacy of the history of art and the omnipotence of death. Warhol wanted to pay tribute to important painters such as Joseph Wright of Derby and JMW Turner who depicted Vesuvius in the past, a knowledgeable tribute to the history of art.

The omnipotence of death, on the other hand, is an aspect that the artist often exalted in his works. The dark lines in these serigraphs serve to emphasise the drama of the event and amplify the destructive nature of the lava mixed with the black smoke produced by it. All reminders of the images Warhol created in the early 1960s when he painted road accidents, disasters, suicides and electric chairs.

The parallelism of the city of Naples and the volcano is now obvious: the energy of a prosperous city on one hand and the danger of impending destruction due to the volcano on the other. Two characteristics that, according to Warhol, make Naples unique and special.

 Warhol's first trip to Naples took place in 1975, when he was invited by the Neapolitan gallerist Lucio Amelio. They had met a year earlier in New York, when the artist portrayed Amelio in four serigraphs in different colours, one of these was traded for a painting by Cy Twombly. This was the start of a firm friendship and work collaboration.

 For Warhol Naples was the Italian version of New York.  He found many aspects of the Big Apple in the Neapolitan city, especially the dirtiness of the streets and the presence of drag-queens declaring: ‘Naples like New York is a city that falls apart and despite everything, people are happy, like in New York’.  Warhol was fascinated by this place, which was so full of life, with the constant threat of destruction from Vesuvius looming over the city.

Naples reminded Andy Warhol of his city also due to the presence of ‘femminielli’, the Neapolitan version of the New York drag queens that the artist had used as the subject for the 1975 ‘Ladies and Gentleman’ series.  No other place has left Warhol with the emotions that Naples left him, and vice versa.  The artist has given so much to the city by relaunching it on the international cultural circuit.

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