'Pompeii, The Forum from the Southern Extremity...', 1841.
© National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A daguerreotype of the southern end of the forum at Pompeii, Italy, by Alexander John Ellis. Forums were the political and economic heart of a Roman town. Pompeii, a prosperous Roman city on the Bay of Naples, was destroyed by the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Preserved beneath volcanic ash the city was rediscovered in 1748, its excavation sparking the late eighteenth century interest in Classical design. Ellis made eight daguerreotypes in Pompeii between April 21 and May 12, 1841, also making daguerreotypes in nearby Paestum at the same time. The full title of the daguerreotype is 'Pompeii, The Forum from the Southern Extremity. In the distance (scarcely visible) is Vesuvius.' Ellis toured Italy in 1841, taking daguerreotype panoramas, landscapes and architectural views. In Rome, he worked with Achille Morelli and Lorenzo Suscipi, acquiring 45 daguerreotypes from them. In total, Ellis took or acquired 159 daguerreotypes. He intended to publish engravings made from th