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: Roman Art in Minneapolis: A Pompeian Fresco of the First Century A.D.


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Classical antiquity has provided many subjects and motifs repeated throughout the history of painting. This is evident in neoclassical works, as well as in the subject matter of other artistic movements.1 As far as the original works of classical antiquity are concerned, practically nothing has survived of the once large corpus of ancient Greek panel and mural painting.2 Modern scholars can only attempt to reconstruct a hint of these works by examining the surviving examples of vase painting and relief sculpture. The situation in regard to Roman painting is different primarily because of the burial and rediscovery of the ancient cities around Vesuvius. Examples of Roman wall painting were preserved in situ by a single, cataclysmic act, the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on August 24, 79 A.D.3 Prior to 1979, no example of Roman painting had entered the Ancient Collection of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. As the result of a generous gift, a Roman fresco now resides in Minneapolis, some nineteen centuries after his work of art was preserved by the ashes of Vesuvius.4The Minneapolis fresco, although it can stand on its own as an individual work of art, was originally part of a larger wall mural. This is evident by the fragmentary nature of the leafy green bough at the top of the fresco, which was more extensively draped over the longer scene, and the hints of vegetation on the lateral parts of the brown ground line still visible in pale brown and red. The single subject of the fresco is a standing figure holding a horn in its upraised right hand and a bucket in its lowered left. This deity, engaged in pouring a stream of fluid from the horn over its head down into the bucket, is dressed in rustic clothing: tall, fringed boots with open toes; a knee length reddish brown tunic trimmed in blue; and a swirling green pallium. The figure’s head is crowned with a leafy wreath.This painting is on white ground and the background has not been painted, except for the green festoon above and the brown earth below the standing figure.5 The broad watercolor brushstrokes in the festoon and the soil are well attested to in other Pompeian wall murals.6 The ancient artist even added some darker strokes to the brown soil to indicate the shadow cast by the standing figure. The flesh tones on the painting are even in color but subtly lightened in spots (knees, forearms, and shoulders) to imitate the sun’s reflection. The reddish tunic with blue trim alternately clings to the figure’s body or flaps in the air, the proper reaction of thin material in a stiff breeze. These folds and undulations are smoothly distinguished by careful shading and highlights. The green pallium swirls behind the deity and loops around the lowered left hand. This drapery swirl, which almost produces a halo effect, is well-documented in other Pompeian wall paintings.7 The figure’s face consists of fine features: a small mouth, straight nose, and large eyes. The figure’s face is framed by tight, wavy curls and surmounted by the delicate leaves of a woven wreath. The quality of this painting is high overall.8The wall paintings found in the excavated ancient cities around Mt. Vesuvius are the most important documents for our knowledge of Roman painting. Aside from these examples, the lack of frescoes outside of Rome, their scarcity in the city itself and the complete disappearance of ancient panel paintings have all contributed to the difficulty of reconstructing the history of Roman painting. Few literary works have survived which comment on the techniques and styles of ancient wall painting, and the remarks of those extant authors, most notably Vitruvius and the Elder Pliny, are only partially confirmed by Pompeian art. These two writers essentially expressed a higher aesthetic taste in their literary works which was not reflected in the more popular representations of the lower-quality artistic examples from Pompeii.9 The paintings from the ancient cities around Mt. Vesuvius have been taken as typical of the general production at that time; it is from this group that hypotheses and conjectures about the tradition of Roman painting have been derived. By comparison, a man living some twenty centuries in the future would have to learn about Renaissance painting not from the frescoes of Michelangelo or the works of Leonardo, but through the decorative mural paintings on the walls of a middle class residence in an average provincial Italian city.In spite of these difficulties, the diversity of Pompeian wall paintings in terms of style and quality is an aid in determining the general lines of the development of Roman painting.10 The earliest Italic pictorial tradition was no doubt born among the Etruscans and survives in the painting of their tombs and ceramics. The influence of Hellenistic Greek culture spread from the eastern Mediterranean in the third century B.C. and mixed with the local Italic traditions. This Greek influence only continued in the next several centuries, for as Rome became politically and militarily involved in the East, the flow of Greeks and their ideas to the West continued. Thus, two traditions were involved with the evolution of Pompeian painting. Yet, as in the case of Pompeian mosaics, it is extremely difficult to determine to what extent Greek concepts were faithfully copied and to what extent they were interpreted and elaborated in accordance with local tastes and traditions.Thus, the identity of the Pompeian artists has often been called into question. In the case of Greek vase painting some, but by no means all, potters and painters signed their works. By contrast, the names of practically no Roman painters are recorded in the literary or archaeological sources.11 The excavations in Pompeii to date have not revealed the local workshops of the wall painters. This may be explained by the perishability of the tools used by these artisans, but it must be remembered that such men worked in loco, in the houses of their clients. Some of these houses have rooms only partly decorated as the work was interrupted by the catastrophe of 79 A.D. Pompeii suffered an earthquake in 62 A.D. which damaged many buildings and necessitated the decoration of new walls and the restoration of old ones.12 The artistic workshops were probably divided into two groups: those who constructed the walls and those who decorated them. The work of the latter artisans was greatly dependent on the work of the former, since a fresco on a poorly constructed wall would not long survive.13The various aspects of plaster and plastering are often embodied in the term “stucco.”14 Confusion can arise from an inconsistent use of this term as it has two somewhat contradictory meanings. In a functional sense, stucco can refer to the plaster-work employed for architectural surfacing and decoration. Today, this also includes the protective coating applied to the exterior of a building. But in a chemical sense, stucco can distinguish the plaster based on lime (calcium oxide) from the plaster based on calcined gypsum (the modern plaster of Paris). The plaster generally used by the Romans for architectural work was the lime-plaster which set slowly and produced a hard, durable surface. Such a coating was often prepared with a view toward painting.15The two major literary sources for information on ancient painting, Vitruvius and the Elder Pliny, also provide the best evidence on plaster and wall preparation.16 Since lime itself does not occur naturally, it has to be obtained by the calcination of one of the calcium carbonates (calcite and its more massive varieties limestone, marble, and chalk). When any of these compounds is heated, carbon dioxide is released and the material is converted into quicklime (calcium oxide).17 The quicklime is the same volume but only half the weight of the original calcium carbonate. When it is broken up and receives sufficient water, this material gives off considerable heat and then crumbles into a white powder (slaked lime).18 The addition of more water and a type of grit to this powder produces the mortar and plaster used in wall construction. As it dries, the material takes carbon dioxide from the air and reverts back to what it was at the beginning of the cycle: calcium carbonate.19This chemical process could be slightly affected by the quality of stone burnt for lime or the type of grit used in the plaster. A dense, hard stone was recommended for structural work while vesicular stone could be used for plaster work. Quarry sand was useful in concrete, but fine river sand or marble dust was better for wall plaster as it would be less likely to crack. Thorough slaking of the lime was also a necessity as crude lime would complete its slaking process in the wall plaster. This would produce blisters and destroy the polished wall surface.20Though all calcium carbonates, several different minerals were involved in plaster making. Modern researchers have identified calcite and alabaster-dust in addition to true marble dust in ancient wall stucco. Other substances were also mixed with the lime, depending on geographical location and the availability of materials. The stucco of volcanic regions often contained distinctive brownish-purple grains of volcanic sand called pozzolana, named for the Campanian port of Puteoli (Pozzuoli). In addition to volcanic sand, the stucco of Pompeii often contained calcite crystals, which could have been obtained from veins in the limestone of the nearby Sorrentine peninsula.21The proportions in which the main ingredients were mixed to form Roman stucco would naturally be another variable factor. Modern chemical analyses cannot distinguish between the calcium carbonate formed from the hardening lime and then added in the form of calcite or marble-dust. It is also unclear whether other chemicals identified by modern tests in ancient stucco are present as impurities in the lime or were added deliberately. The ancient authors themselves do not even agree in regard to stucco ingredient proportions.22 Each individual craftsman probably had his own favored proportions of sand and lime for the variety of plasters necessary in construction.The best description of the process of wall construction with stucco comes from the ancient Roman authors, specifically in the words of Vitruvius in his treatise De architectura VII, 3.5-7:
5. Having finished the mouldings, apply a very rough rendering coat to the walls, and afterwards, when the rendering coat gets pretty dry, spread upon it the layers of sand mortar, exactly adjusted in length to rule and line, in height to the plummet, and at the angles to the square. The stucco will thus present a faultless appearance for paintings. When it gets pretty dry, spread on a second coat and then a third. The better the foundation of sandmortar that is laid on, the stronger and more durable in its solidity will be the stucco.
6. When not less than three coasts of sand mortar, besides the rendering coat, have been laid on, the, we must make the mixture for the layers of powdered marble, the mortar being so tempered that when mixed it does not stick to the trowel, but the iron comes out freely and clean from the mortar trough. After this powdered marble has been spread on and gets dry, lay on a medium second coat. When that has been applied and well rubbed down, spread on a finer coat. The walls, being thus rendered solid by three coats of sand mortar and as many of marble, will not possibly be liable to cracks or to any other defect.
7. And further, such walls, owing to the solid foundation given by thorough working with polishing instruments, and the smoothness of it, due to the hard and dazzling white marble, will bring out in brilliant splendor the colors which are laid on at the same time with the polishing.
These colors, when they are carefully laid on stucco still wet, do not fade but are permanent. This is because the lime, having had its moisture burned out in the kiln, becomes porous and loses its strength, and its dryness makes it take up anything that may come in contact with it.23
The account of Pliny the Elder is scarcely less demanding than that of Vitruvius as the former author recommended five layers, three of sand mortar and two of marble stucco.24 However, the archaeological evidence illustrates that both Roman writers were somewhat idealistic in their guidelines. The six-layer technique was used at Rome in the House of Livia and in the house on the grounds of the Villa Farnesina, but these were owned by the wealthy and may have even been Imperial residences. The standard of work fell short of the Vitruvian ideal in the majority of buildings. At Salapia in southeastern Italy four layers were used; in the Aula Isiaca on the Roman Palatine four undercoats and one surface layer have been distinguished; while at Pompeii and Herculaneum, the normal procedure apparently required only two or three layers, the lower one or two comprising of lime and sand with a surface layer of lime and calcite.25 Vitruvius clearly knew of the frequent disparity between the real and the ideal as he specifically warned of the faults (i.e. cracks) which could ensue from the application of only one coat of sand mortar and one of marble stucco.26Regardless of the number of layers used, the surface was prepared for painting after the plaster application. Paintings of poorer quality or lesser expense were applied to the rough plaster surface. However, more effort and expense were dedicated to higher quality paintings before their application. The fine plaster surface layer was smoothed and polished with a stone burnisher or marble roller. The colors were then painted on to the plaster surface while it was still damp. This method is known as true fresco since it uses water as the vehicle for the pigments.27 Such paintings are quite durable because the pigments become bound to the plaster itself as it dries and the calcium carbonate crystals form. Background color was always applied to wet plaster but detail could be added to the wall when it was either wet or dry. Some paintings were polished again after paint application and this accounts for some fuzziness in the lines and the absence of brushmarks. The speed of the painters was once thought to be vital to the successful fresco decoration. It is now believed that wall plaster dries more slowly than previously imagined, especially if it consists of numerous layers. When plaster was indeed too dry for the true fresco technique, it could be removed from the wall and replaced with fresh plaster, thus allowing the painter to finish his work. The tempera technique enabled the artist to add details to a dried plaster background. Mixing a pigment with egg or honey for application on wet plaster was also done for colors like carbon black whose greasy nature made its use difficult with water alone.28The pigments used in Roman wall painting were obtained from mineral, vegetable and animal sources. Colors such as the ochres were easily obtainable from widespread sedimentary rock deposits but other could only be isolated from rarer heavy metals and were therefore expensive to use in painting. Substitutes were found or chemically made to overcome the scarcity and expense of these mineral pigments. The same was the case for the expensive vegetable pigments, like indigo, and certain animal pigments, like Tyrian purple, a dye obtained from a species of sea mollusk.29The red tunic of the figure on the Minneapolis fresco could have been produced by a pigment made of either cinnabar or hermatite.30 The blue trim of the tunic was probably created by a pigment artificially prepared from copper, silica and calcium.31 Blue could also be obtained from ultramarine or azurite. Indigo was also a more expensive possibility, but woad was more readily available as a substitute. The green of the figure’s pallium, as well as the leaves of the wreath and festoon, was commonly obtained from a pigment known as terre verte made up of the two main minerals glanconite and celadonite.32 Malachite and verdigris were more rarely used as green pigments due to their comparative expense.33 The various shades of brown on the Minneapolis fresco, from the figure’s boots, hair, and eyes down to the soil it stands on, were probably derived from sinopis, a red-brown ochre, and brown umber.34 Lighter flesh tones were often produced by the yellow pigments such as yellow ochre, a natural pigment composed of clay and silica.35 These colors could be altered by adding various amounts of iron oxide. The black and gray colors on all paintings, visible in the horn and bucket on the Minneapolis fresco, were most commonly produced by a pigment made from carbon.36 White, visible in the eyes of the figure, usually came from lime white, a pigment prepared by the grinding and slaking of calcined marble or oyster shells.37 The Minneapolis fresco was polished before painting but did not receive a secondary polishing after paint application.The identification of this standing figure can be made with confidence based on the evidence of the pastoral scene in addition to the subjects’ pose, dress, and accessories. The deity holds a horn, a rhyton, in its upraised hand and pours liquid into a bucket, a situla, in its lowered hand. The knee-length tunic, swirling pallium, and tall fringed leather boots, in this case with open toes, also help to identify our figure as a Lar, an ancient Roman household deity.38 The Lares were represented in sculpture as well as in painting, and their abundant shrines were known as lararia.39 One particular wall painting from a Pompeian lararium offers many valuable comparisons to the Minneapolis fresco. The second figure from the left exhibits the same pose as our Lar, from the fringed boots with heels on the ground line to the wreathed head. This Pompeian Lar even holds a straight rhyton almost exactly like the one in the right hand of the Minneapolis Lar, in contrast to the more curved rhyta often held by some other Lares. The Lares poured wine from these horn shaped vessels into buckets (situlae) or even shallow bowls (paterae). Both the Minneapolis and the Pompeian Lar stand on bare earth and have a draped festoon above their heads. The larger Pompeian fresco may be taken as a fairly accurate example of a lararium painting to which the Minneapolis fresco fragment once belonged.The only aspect present in the Minneapolis fresco which might dispute the identification of the figure as a Lar is the apparent presence of breasts on this standing deity. However, the Lares were always rather sexually amorphous characters. Indeed, even the Latin lar, pl. lares, is a third declension noun, a neuter word.40 In art, the Lares are always represented as youthful deities but they vary in characteristics that may be described as masculine or feminine. The earlier representations of the Lares looked much like the Dioscouri, the mythological twins Castor and Pollux.41 Hence they exuded masculine characteristics. Later artistic depictions mollified these aspects or even turned toward the feminine. By the first century A.D., the date of the Minneapolis fresco, hermaphroditic qualities were present in the artistic depictions of the Lares. These characteristics were also reflected in Silver Age Latin literature, most notably in the writings of Petronius.42 So, the appearance of breasts on the Minneapolis Lar need not destroy the figure’s identification. Rather, this characteristic helps date the Lar to the latter half of the first century A.D.Further evidence of the dating of the Minneapolis fresco can be found in the style of the painting and the choice of colors. The red tunic trimmed in blue contrasted with a green pallium is certainly a vibrant combination. The folds of the swirling drapery also provide an excellent contrast to the figure’s serene facial expression and stylized pose. These aspects cumulatively place the Minneapolis fresco within the Fourth Style of Pompeian wall painting, certainly after 50 A.D. and probably closer to 70 A.D. in date.43That the cult of the Lares became universal throughout the Roman world is attested to by the archaeological evidence. Their shrines, which consisted of paintings and/or statuettes of these deities, have been found in the many excavated buildings of Pompeii and elsewhere. There are two principal theories as to the origin of these deities. One suggests that the Lares are the ghosts of the dead. Whenever a bit of food fell on the floor during a meal, it was burnt before the Lares.44 Since the floor was a notorious haunt of ghosts and the food had gone to the ghosts’ region, it was formally given to the ghosts. The Lares were also propitiated at the Compitalia, or festival of the cross-roads, and the ghosts supposedly had a fondness for cross-roads as well.45 There is also an etymological argument which connects the Lares with the chthonian deities Larentia, Larunda, and the Estruscan Lasa as well.The second theory as to the origin of the Lares emphasizes that the Roman dead were not honored in the house but at their graves. The house is the place of Vesta, the di Penates, and the Lares were later intruders into the circle.46 A compitium, or crossroad, was originally a place where the paths separating four farms met. The Lares were then celebrated as guardians of the farm lands at these places, and their rites were in the nature of a purification, not a sacrifice. Their worship eventually expanded from the farms and came into the houses, sharing the shrines of the di Penates and various genii. Their role as protective deities became more specialized, as guardians of travel by sea (Lares permarini) and of the State in general (Lares praestites).47 The Lares have no proper mythology, just like all Roman deities, and the stories outlining their specific divine origins are quite late and conflicting.48Laws controlling the export of Italian archaeological and artistic treasures were not yet in effect during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The contents of the Pompeian villas excavated at this time were widely distributed to various major museums. Much of the silver and gold from the Boscoreale villas was purchased and given to the Louvre, while other objects found their way to the Field Museum in Chicago. Many wall paintings from the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor and Boscotrecase ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Although the majority of the more than one thousand wall paintings discovered from 1875 to 1900 were retained in place, more fell into private or non-Italian hands than went to the Naples Museum.49 The Minneapolis fresco probably entered a private collection at this time or shortly thereafter.In 1908, Arnold Ruesch was commissioned by the director of the Naples Museum to write a guide book for that institution.50 He completed that task in 1909 and Ruesch’s Guida illustrata del Museo Nazionale di Napoli was quite useful and much cited at that time. Ruesch’s qualifications for this task were obvious. He was born on January 11, 1882, in Naples, the son of a wealthy industrialist. He studied in Switzerland and later did graduate work at the University of Zurich, receiving his Ph.D. in 1921. His wealth enabled him to become a renowned collector of and authority on the antiquities excavated from the ancient cities near his native Naples. Ruesch even went so far as to commission the architectural firm of Müller and Freytag to build a Pompeian style villa in Zurich as the perfect setting for his collection of antiquities. The construction of Ruesch’s villa was a long process, begun in 1910 and finished in 1921. After its completion, this villa and its extensive collection of Classical antiquities was considered to be the museum of Zurich, in quality if not officially in name. In 1929, Arnold Ruesch died of a fever and his collection of antiquities was sold at auction in 1936. The Minneapolis fresco was not a part of this auction since it had been built into a wall of Ruesch’s villa sometime during that eleven year period of construction. The fresco remained in place until 1978 when the villa in Zurich was torn down to make way for new apartment buildings.51 At that time, the fresco and other items which had been built into the villa’s walls and floors were removed. The fresco passed into the hands of one of Arnold Ruesch’s granddaughters and then came by generous gift into the Ancient Collection of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The exact location where Arnold Ruesch first obtained this fresco for the wall of his villa is the ultimate question.A corpus of the known lararia in Pompeii was compiled by George K. Boyce in 1937.52 He listed all of the painting and statuary found in the excavated shrines up until that time. This scholarly work is valuable in regard to the Minneapolis Lar for the incomplete and damaged lararia mentioned by Boyce. The Minneapolis fresco was built into the wall of Arnold Ruesch’s villa sometime during the construction period of 1910-1921. The fresco could, of course, have been in the possession of others before it came into Ruesch’s hands, but the date of 1921 is certainly a terminus ante quem to be compared with the excavation dates of the incomplete lararia.Boyce’s Corpus also reveals the two major damaging forces to laraium paintings; fading images, due to the exposure of the plaster to the elements after excavation, and falling plaster, either due to similar meteorological exposure or by an act of man. His work reflects both his own observations in the excavated Pompeii of the 1930s and the earlier excavation reports of the archaeologists. Most of the catalogue entries are quite precise and specific in describing the lararia, especially when Boyce’s own observations augment the original excavation reports. But when the lararia are fragmentary, the descriptions in the Corpus are less precise and not as complete. Of course, it is to these fragmentary lararia entries that we must look for the original placement of the Minneapolis Lar.The upraised right arm and lowered left of the Minneapolis Lar definitely places this figure on the left side of a laraium painting. Seven lararia are mentioned by Boyce out of the more than five hundred entries which retained the right Lar while missing the one on the left.53 Six more lararia entries indicated a missing Lar but lacked a specific side designation.54 In examining these thirteen catalogue possibilities, one more laraium characteristic is vital to this consideration. The Lares were almost always mirror images of each other in pose and in colors. With this in mind, one possibility among the group of thirteen becomes readily apparent. Corpus entry #373 describes a partially preserved laraium painting with a missing Lar on the left side. The extant right Lar can be seen in a red and blue tunic, the only figure with this color combination mentioned in Boyce’s entire Corpus of more than five hundred entries.55 The early excavation reports further confirm and enhance the color combinations of the extant right Lar. In addition to the red and blue tunic, the figure is also described with green accessory clothing.56 The Minneapolis Lar is a left sided figure wearing a red tunic trimmed in blue and a green pallium. Thus, the two figures correspond as mirror images in side designations and color combinations. If the Minneapolis Lar does not originally belong to the partially preserved lararium painting of Corpus entry #373, then our Minneapolis fresco fragment is probably the only extant part of a larger fresco which has entirely disappeared from the excavated Vesuvian cities and completely escaped the notice of the archaeological reports and journals.The laraium described in Corpus entry #373 was found in some rooms on the west side of an area left vacant by the demolition of buildings in antiquity which probably occurred after the earthquake of A.D. 62.57 The remains of the painting are preserved on the west wall of a room which was perhaps a kitchen, specifically Region VIII, insula vii, room 3, excavated in 1883.58 Such an excavation date and the absence of the left Lar at this time implies that the fresco fragment passed through the hands of at least one other person before coming into the possession of Arnold Ruesch. The Lar found a home once again in his Zurich villa by 1921. Nineteen centuries after it was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the same Lar has a new home half a world away in The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.Michael W. Anderson received both a Master of Arts degree in ancient history and a Master of Arts degree in museology from the University of Minnesota. He completed an internship at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts and is currently a research assistant in the Department of Decorative Arts and Sculpture.Endnotes
  1. See the introduction to Michael Greenhalgh, The Classical Tradition in Art (London, 1978) and the introduction and chapter 1 in Hugh Honour, Neo-classicsim (New York, 1968; rev. rept., 1977).
  2. With the notable exception of the recently discovered Macedonian frescoes. See M. Andronikos, The Royal Graves at Vergina. (Athens, 1978), figs. 3-6.
  3. Pliny the Younger, Epistles VI, 16 and 20.Pompeii was not a small town by ancient standards, covering some 160 acres, but it certainly is by modern concepts. It was situated on a small volcanic hill some 5 1/4 miles SE of Vesuvius and met its end in the eruption of August, 79 A.D. The site was forgotten in the Middle Ages and was rediscovered in 1748. Excavations of varying intensity have continued since that time, and nearly four-fifths of the city have now been uncovered. Oscan, Greek, and Etruscan influences are evident in early habitation layers, but Pompeii was a Sammite city from the late fifth century B.C. until the time of Sulla in the 80s B.C. After the Social War, the city of Pompeii received Roman enfranchisement and also a colony of Roman army veterans. Thereafter, the romanization of Pompeii was greatly advanced and Oscan characteristics were replaced by the Latin language and Roman standards. The severe earthquake of 62 A.D. greatly aided this process and the parts of the city which were rebuilt before the eruption show strong Roman influence in architecture and wall painting. At the time of its destruction, Pompeii was a prosperous town. It was a market for the produce of the rich Campanian countryside, a port with wide Mediterranean connections, and even an industrial center providing certain specialty products like wines, millstones, fish sauce, and perfumes, which supplied more than a local demand.
  4. Roman (Pompeian), 1-50 A.D.
    Standing Deity holding an amphora and a vessel paint on plaster (fresco)
    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Rubin, 79.21
    H. 33 3/4 in. W. 18 1/4 in.
  5. When the Roman fresco arrived at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, it was in need of conservation. The surface was cleaned and the flaking paint was consolidated. The lower right hand corner of the fresco was then strengthened, and the modern plaster molding around the work was made complete. Finally, the wooden support for the fresco was cleaned. The surface cleaning greatly improved the color contrasts on the fresco and the repair of the plaster molding enhanced the appreciation of the fresco as a singular work of art.
  6. For an example from a laraium that is also in a recent publication see the Bacchus and Mt. Vesuvius mural painting in Pompeii and Its Museums (New York and Milan, 1979), p. 18.
  7. Especially evident in the famous murals of the Villa of the Mysteries, see Pompeii and Its Museums, p. 142-147.
  8. On April 11, 1981, Prof. Dr. Karl Schefold of the University of Basel remarked on the high quality of this painting. He also dated it to a period after A.D. 50 and probably closer to A.D. 70. His postulation that this fragment might have come from Stabiae was based on the high quality of the work.
  9. See especially the introduction to K. Jex-Blake and E. Sellers, The Elder Pliny’s Chapters on the History of Art (London and New York, 1896; rept. Chicago, 1976).
  10. See L. Curtis, Die Wandmalerei Pompeijis. (Leipzig, 1929; rept. Hildesheim, 1960); A. Maiuri, Roman Painting (Geneva, 1953); and K. Schefold, La peinture pompeienne. (Brussels, 1972).
  11. See the Elder Pliny, Naturalis Historia XXXV, 37.120 for one Fabullus (or Famullus), a famous painter who frescoed Nero’s Domus Aurea and supposedly only worked a few hours each day. The only signature of a painter found in Pompeii refers to a certain Lucius who painted a scene from Ovid in the house of Octavius Quartio.
  12. Mentioned in Tacitus, Annals XV, 22.
  13. See T. Venturini Papari, L’arte degli stucchi al tempo di Augusto (Rome, 1901).
  14. See S. Augusti, La technique de al peinture pompeienne (Naples, 1957) and W. Klinkert, “Bemerkungen zur Technik der pompejanischen Wanddekoratoin,” Mitteilungen des deutschen archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung, 64 (1957), 111-148.
  15. For stucco relief sculpture see E. L. Wadsworth, “Stucco Reliefs of the First and Second Centuries Still Extant in Rome,” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, 4 (1924).
  16. Pliny, NH XXXV, 36; XXXVI, 174f. and 183. Vitruvius, De architectura II, 4.2-3 and 5.1; VII, 2f. and 6.
  17. This reaction can be expressed as follows:
    CaCO3 + heat = CaO + CO2
  18. CaO + H2O = Ca(OH)2 + heat
  19. Ca(OH)2 + CO2 = CaCO3 + H2O
  20. Vitruvius, De architectura VII, 2.1.
  21. Especially note the scholarly research published in the 1967 volume of the Bollettino dell’Istituto Centrale del Restauro of Rome. This modern work greatly augments earlier ones such as H. Blümmer, Technologie und Terminologie der Gewerbe und Künste bei Greichen und Römern (Leipzig, 1875-87); G. P. Bankart, The Art of the Plasterer (London, 1908); R. J. Gettens and G. L. Stout, Painting Materials (New York, 1942); and N. Davey, A History of Building Materials (London, 1961).
  22. Pliny and Vitruviuis disagreed in mortar ingredient proportions with regard to the type of sand used. Pliny NH XXXVI, 54.175 recommended a four to one ratio of quarry sand to lime, but Vitruvius De arch II, 5.1 suggested a two to one ratio for the same type of sand. Both agree that three to one is the best ratio for river or sea-sand to lime. However, Pliny recommends the use of up to one-third the volume of crushed potsherds in stucco.
  23. Vitruvius, The Ten Books on Architecture. Trans. By Morris Hicky Morgan (Cambridge, Mass., 1914; rept. New York, 1960), p. 206-207. The walls were stuccoed from top to bottom, and the thickness of the different plaster layers was often decreased with the application of increasingly finer particle stucco.
  24. Pliny NH XXXVI, 55.176.
  25. Roger Ling, “Stuccowork” in Roman Crafts, ed. By D. E. Strong and D. Brown (New York, 1976), p. 213.
  26. Vitruvius, De arch VII, 3.8.
  27. M. Cagiano de Azevedo, “Affresco” in Enciclopedia dell’arte antica, vol. 1 (Rome, 1958).
  28. Pamela Pratt, “Wall Painting” in Roman Crafts, ed. by D. E. Strong and D. Brown (New York, 1976), p. 228.
  29. Vitruvius, De arch VII, 13.1-3 and Pratt, p. 224-227.
  30. Vitruvius, De arch VII, 7.2 and 8-9.
  31. Vitruvius, De arch VII, 11.1.
  32. Vitruvius, De arch VII, 7.4.
  33. Vitruvius, De arch VII, 14.2.
  34. Vitruvius, De arch VII, 7.2.
  35. Vitruvius, De arch VII, 7.1.
  36. Vitruvius, De arch VII, 10.1-4.
  37. Vitruvius, De arch VII, 7.3 and 12.1-2.
  38. “Lares” in A. Pauly, G. Wissowa, and W. Kroll, Real-Encyclopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, vol. XII, 1 (Stuttgart, 1924), col. 806-833 and “Lares” in C. V. Daremberg and E. Saglio, Dictionnaire des antiquities grecques et romaines, vol. III (Paris, 1873-1919), 937f.
  39. See John Ward-Perkins and Amanda Claridge, Pompeii A.D. 79 (Boston, 1978). No. 199 of this exhibition catalogue was a wall painting from a lararium and cat. nos. 213 and 214 were bronze statuettes of the Lares.
  40. C. T. Lewis and C. Short, A Latin Dictionary (Oxford, 1879; 1975 impression), p. 1036.
  41. See M. C. Waites, “The Nature of the Lares and Their Representation in Roman Art,” American Journal of Archaeology, 24 (1920), 241-261.
  42. As reflected in Petronius’ Satyricon which not only lampooned the “nouveau riche” of Imperial Rome but also repeatedly commented on the confused sexual roles prevalent in the Neronian age.
  43. The stylistic classification of Pompeian wall paintings began in earnest with the work of the scholar August Mau. He concentrated on the decorative schemes and combination of the wall murals rather than the individual panels in isolation. He first published his systematic analysis of these schemes in the Giornale degli scavi di Pompei in 1873 and continued to refine his views in articles which appeared in the Bollettino dell’Istituto and the Römishce Mitteilungen of the German Archaeological Institute. The result was his Geschichte der dekorativen Wandmalerei in Pompeji (Berlin, 1882), a history of the decorative schemes in the wall paintings viewed within the overall structure of interior decoration.
    Mau called his decorative schemes “Styles” and grouped them into typological categories. The First or Incrusted Style began in the second century B.C. and imitated a variety of colored marbles and stones in painted plaster. The Second or Architectural Style was current in the first century B.C. and concentrated on reproducing real architectural vistas by various techniques, including the use of perspective. The Third or Ornamental Style was developed in Augustan times and was preoccupied with delicate, even irrational, ornamentation which emphasized the surface rather than the depth of the paintings. The Fourth Style of the first century A.D. turned the architectural subjects of the Second Style out of reality and into the realm of fantasy. Ribbon-like columns would support massive pediments and cornices in these illusionistic depictions. The Fourth Style was also robust and often coarse in its use of color and schematic compositions. Mau believed that his four Styles succeeded one another neatly in time, but scholars today generally agree that these divisions are not quite so clearly established in history. The more evidence that has been recovered from Rome and the Campanian cities reveal a considerable degree of overlap and contamination of Styles. Mau’s work remains the essential starting point for the study of Roman painting. He brought order out of chaos in the late nineteenth-century study of Pompeii and demonstrated that the panel paintings could not be properly examined out of their original schematic mural context.
    Understandably, Mau’s work influenced other scholarly explorations into the paintings of Pompeii. G. E. Rizzo tried to insert Pompeian painting into the larger historical context by emphasizing the continuity of Hellenistic and Roman painting in La Pittura ellenistico-romana (Milan, 1929). L. Curtius evaluated the meaning of Pompeian painting in its own context by addressing the relationships between the panel paintings and the decorative schemes in his Die Wandmalerei Pompejis (Leipzig, 1929). Some thematic studies followed, most notably C. M. Dawson’s Romano-Campanian Mythological Landscape Painting (New Haven, 1944) and H. G. Beyen’s essay on still-life painting at Pompeii and Herculaneum, published in 1928.
  44. Pliny NH XXVIII, 27.
  45. Festus 272.15 in W. M. Lindsay, Glossaria Latina, vol. 4 (Paris, 1930).
  46. s.v. “Lares” in G. Wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Römer, 2nd ed. (Munich, 1912).
  47. For these various roles see Ovid, Fasti II, 599f. and VI, 627f. See also Pliny NH XXXVI, 204.
  48. The entire question is well covered in K. Latte, Römische Religionsgeschichte (Berlin, 1960), p. 90f.
  49. R. Brilliant, Pompeii A.D. 79: The Treasure of Rediscovery (New York, 1979), p. 213.
  50. The following facts about Arnold Ruesch, his villa, and his collection of antiquities were gleaned from the auction catalogue Sammlung A. Ruesch, Zürich; Griechische, Etrukische und Römische Altertümer. Auktion in Luzern; Galerie Fischer, Im Hotel National, 1936.
  51. Correspondence dated September 26, 1979, from Lawrence Rubin to Ben Heller.
  52. George K. Boyce, “A Corpus of the Lararia of Pompeii,” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, 14 (1937), entire volume.
  53. Corpus entries 26, 58, 60, 92, 283, 314, and 373.
  54. Corpus entries 27, 127, 128, 322, 421, and 504.
  55. Sogliano’s notice in the Notizie degli scavi di antichita of the Accademia dei lincei, Rome, vol. 8 (1883), p. 51.
  56. The notice in the Bullettino dell’Instituto di corrispondenza archeologica of the archäologisches Institut des deutschen Reichs, Berlin, for 1884, p. 136-7, specifically ‘. . . un Lare con tunica rossa e turchina e stivali verdi . . .’
  57. Tacitus Annals XV, 22.
  58. See Boyce’s comments for entry 373 and the placement of the painting within these rooms.
Referenced Works of Art
  1. Standing Deity holding an amphora and a vessel, Roman (Pompeian), 1-50 A.D., paint on plaster (fresco), H. 33 3/4 in., W. 18 1/4 in., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Rubin, 79.21, as it appeared after conservation.
  2. Standing Deity, 79.21, as it appeared on arrival at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts in December 1979.
  3. Pompeian laraium painting from a taberna with thermopolium. Note similarities between the MIA Standing Deity and the second figure from left.
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Source: Michael W. Anderson, "Roman Art in Minneapolis: A Pompeian Fresco of the First Century A.D.," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 64 (1978-1980): 94-103.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009