Sommer and his employees traveled through Italy, Malta, Tunisia, Switzerland, and Austria making photographs for the tourist trade, but his most compelling images are those made close to home at the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum. This graphically powerful, eerily affecting, and preternaturally modern photograph depicts a cast made at Pompeii by pouring plaster into the void left by the remains of a dog engulfed in volcanic ash and mud during the catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79. One 19th-century critic aptly made a connection between such casts and photography itself: “The photographs . . . reveal with a fearful fidelity the dreadful agonies of some of those who perished at Pompeii, and, while looking at the pictures, it is very difficult to divest the mind of the idea that they are not the works of some ancient photographer who plied his lens and camera immediately after the eruption had ceased, so forcibly do they carry the mind back to the time and place of the awful immurement of both a town and its people.”


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Artist
Giorgio Sommer, Italian, born Germany, 1834–1914
Title
Dog, Pompeii
Date
c. 1870
Medium
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Dimensions
Image: 11 3/16 × 14 13/16 in. (28.4 × 37.6 cm) Sheet: 19 3/8 × 25 3/16 in. (49.2 × 64 cm)
Credit Line

Museum purchase funded by the Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors

Current Location
Not on view
Accession Number
2014.258
Classification
Photographs
Provenance

Institut Catholique de Paris; (Sale: Ader, Paris, November 17, 2013 [Lot 00112] in a lot of 12; James Hyman, London