'Faithful unto death', Edward Poynter, 1865

A roman soldier, described below

Oil on canvas, 115 x 75.5cm

Accession Number WAG2118

This work illustrated the epitome of devotion to duty for Victorian morals. The Roman sentry stands at his post whilst Pompeii and its citizens are destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD. Scattered on the ground can be seen coins and other valuables, whilst in the background people try to save themselves and their possessions from the debris. Despite this and his obvious trepidation, the soldier still stands firm.

Poynter's source was the excavation at Pompeii of the remains of a soldier in full armour. This was used as the basis for an imaginary incident in Bulwer-Lytton's popular historical novel 'The Last days of Pompeii'.