Campi Phlegraei

or: Hamilton’s Flaming Fields

Paraphrased: The area around Naples was known locally as the Campi Phlegraei, or ‘flaming fields’, owing to the frequent and violent eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. William Hamilton (Britain’s envoy to the Spanish court at Naples) from his country house at the foot of the volcano, was ideally placed to witness and investigate the eruptions of the 1770s. The prevailing view at the time was of volcano was a purely destructive force. Hamilton sought to show that in a broader time scale, volcanoes had been responsible for the mountainous landscape and rich, fertile soils that characterized the area. Hamilton employed the Anglo-Neapolitan artist Peter Fabris to create sketches in situ to illustrate the work (Hamilton himself is pictured in many of the plates as the figure in the red coat). These were then reproduced in prints that were hand coloured individually by local artists by the application of gouache. The resultant work was published in 1776 (with a later supplement describing the great eruption of Vesuvius in August 1779) as Campi Phlegraei: Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies.

Take a closer look at this beauty at Glasgow University Library, Georgetown’s Campania site, Ingenious UK, Nortwestern’s Campania Felix, and Stromboli Online. Also Hamilton’s Apparatus.

10.30. filed under: art. history. people. science. 3