Virgil's Tomb by Moonlight, with Silius Italicus Declaiming

Joseph Wright (Wright of Derby) British

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 806

Wright depicts a site that had long been a popular destination for visitors to Naples. Indeed he could reasonably expect that Londoners who viewed this painting at the Royal Academy in 1779 would recognize the tomb of Virgil (70–19 B.C.), author of the Aeneid. Perhaps more obscure is the figure, Silius Italicus, the Roman orator who commemorated the anniversary of the great poet’s death each year by reading his verses aloud within the tomb. As a meditation on mortality, Wright fittingly contrasts the flickering glow of the lantern and the silvery moonlight spreading over the landscape.

Virgil's Tomb by Moonlight, with Silius Italicus Declaiming, Joseph Wright (Wright of Derby) (British, Derby 1734–1797 Derby), Oil on canvas

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