This panel comes from Pompeii, a prosperous city in southern Italy destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 and only rediscovered in 1748. It is a fragment of a larger wall painting removed during a 19th-century excavation. The figure probably represents a Lar,
a Roman ancestral god honored as a guardian of the family’s welfare, and worshiped in a household shrine called a lararium.
The god carries a drinking horn and a wine bucket, and wears a short, swirling cloak, all traditional attributes of a Lar. His pose indicates that he appeared as one of several figures in a horizontal mural within a lararium.
The inner walls of Pompeiian houses were richly decorated with paintings executed in fresco, a water-based tempera technique. The composition was drawn directly into a layer of damp lime plaster with pigments derived from mineral, vegetable and animal sources. The colors became bound to the plaster as it dried, and the work remained an integral part of the wall surface.