The Storm is an example of “vedute ideate,” a style of landscape painting that developed in Naples following the seventeenth-century Romantic tradition. Painters of this style specialized in disasters at sea and divination scenes set in imagined locations, often dramatic coastlines dotted with crumbling ruins. These proto-cinematic images contributed to an overarching European fascination with the Sublime: a mixture of awe and terror, an intense emotional reaction to darkness, mystery, and peril. Here, inky waters force a tiny life raft toward jagged rocks while a sailor attempts a rescue on shore. Has someone been pinned against the stone platform by unrelenting waves? Above, a man in an archaic relief pleads for mercy, inviting an imaginative leap into the scene to experience mounting suspense.
Written by Katrina Greene
Andrew W. Mellon Post-Baccalaureate Curatorial Fellow, 2009–11
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