In 1863, the director of excavations at Pompeii, the city buried by a volcanic blast in 79 A.D., developed a way to make casts of the victims—or, better put, the voids left where their bodies had disintegrated. The ghostly plaster forms, documented by Giorgio Sommer and others in haunting staged photos, were a worldwide sensation, making visible a previously vanished population. These pictures, along with art inspired by them by Robert Rauschenberg and Allan McCollum, are part of “The Last Days of Pompeii,” an inventive, “anti-archeological” show at the Getty that examines how the doomed city was imagined centuries later in art, literature and film. Read more here.
Giorgio Sommer, Cast of a Dog Killed by the Eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii, ca. 1874, albumen silver print.
© The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.