<back to archive January 16 - March 22, 2002:

Souvenir de Pompéi.
The Zurich painter of veduta Jacob Wilhelm Huber (1787–1871)

The preliminary study:

Jakob Wilhelm Huber, View of the Porta d'Ercolano at Pompei,
about 1817, watercolour

The printed product:

Jakob Wilhelm Huber, View of the Porta d'Ercolano at Pompei,
1824, coloured aquatint
After the excavations of the eighteenth century, Pompeii, the ancient Roman city of ruins, became an important stopping place on the Italian journey which by then had become a customary part of the education of the European nobility and bourgeoisie. Visitors to the ancient sites around Mount Vesuvius provided new possibilities of income for local and foreign artists alike. They produced objects for what today would be seen as the beginning of a souvenir market for an upper-class clientele: veduta, memorabilia, and printed, sometimes coloured views. This is the environment in which Jakob Wilhelm Huber (1787-1871) from Zurich - along with other Swiss artists - established himself with some skill as a painter of veduta.

In 1810, as part of his apprenticeship and journeyman 'Wanderjahre', Jakob Wilhelm Huber went to Rome and later Naples to pursue his interest in Italian landscape painting. Eventually he developed a special concern for Naples and the nearby ruins of Pompeii. Sensing the preferences of his clientele, he recorded in 1817 in sketches and watercolours the picturesque ancient ruins. After Huber's politically motivated return to Zurich in 1821, this material formed the basis for his 24 aquatint veduta, published between 1824 and 1832 by Heinrich Füssli as 'Vues pittoresques de Pompéi'. Accompanied by a commentary by the Zurich philologist Jacob Horner, the aquatints entered the market in two editions: a more modest uncoloured one, and a coloured de luxe edition. The Department of Prints and Drawings was able to purchase, in addition to the works already in its collection, drawings and watercolour studies executed in situ for this project.

The exhibition presents an overview of the work of Jakob Wilhelm Huber and a view into the production of the Pompeii publication in the context of its considerable artistic merits. Also on view are works by Huber's contemporaries and friends as well as a collection of the more important contemporary objects about Pompeii, from scholarly publications to souvenirs.

Contact persons:

Dr. Michael Matile (> e-mail) or
Katja Herlach (> e-mail)

Last update 13.2.2002_mm