Yesterday marked the 208th birthday of Karl Briullov, a great Russian painter. To celebrate, let's take a look at his massive masterpiece, "The Last Day of Pompeii."
1. Karl Briullov was born in St. Petersburg in 1799 to Italian parents. He attended the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts but never fully embraced the style taught there. After completing his education in 1821, he left for Rome, where the popular artistic styles were more similar to his own.
2. Briullov traveled throughout Italy, including a visit to Pompeii after the Vesuvius eruption of 1828. With extensive research, Briullov began "The Last Day of Pompeii," which took him three years to complete. Some of the sources Briullov referenced included Giovanni Pacini's opera "L'Ultimo Giorno di Pompeii" and Pliny the Younger's eyewitness description of the eruption.
3. The final painting, measuring 456.5 cm by 651 cm (or about 15 ft. by 21 ft.), was a huge hit in Italy. It inspired a poem by Alexander Pushkin and a novel, The Last Days of Pompeii (1834), by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.
4. Sir Walter Scott, who supposedly knelt in front of the large canvas and stared at it for an hour, declared that "The Last Day of Pompeii" was not an ordinary painting, but instead an epic in colors.
5. For "The Last Day of Pompeii," Briullov won awards at the Paris Salon of 1834, in addition to honorary memberships in the Academies of Bologna, Florence, Milan, and Parma.
6. Known as "the Great Karl" by his friends, Briullov is generally regarded as the first Russian artist to gain international fame.
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