The people of Pompeii decorated the interior walls of their homes with colorful frescos much like we do with paint, wallpaper and artwork, In the late 19th century, German archeologist August Mau identified four distinct styles of wall painting that help identify the time periods in which they were created. From earliest to latest, they are:
First style/Incrustation: Comprised of panels of brilliant color dividing walls into sections, and finishes simulating marble or wood
Second Style/Architectural: Primarily what we call trompe l'oeil; flat images that, with the clever use of perspective, trick the eye into thinking it's seeing a dimensional object. This helped visually extend a windowless room and make it feel less closed in. Walls painted in this style were normally divided, horizontally, into thirds with the center strip being the largest. The images could be landcapes, still lifes, mythological scenes or architectural elements.
Third Style/Ornamental: Characterized by mirrored symmetry and detailed objects, figures and scenes painted to decorate, versus disguise, the wall. Some of these images were painted with frames for a gallery effect.
Fourth Style/illusionist: Sort of a busy combination of all of the above, a wall could be divided into multiple sections with "framed" paintings in some and fanciful, dimensional scenes in others.
Some of the frescos have been removed to the museum in Naples for preservation, and many of the houses with the best paintings were closed to the public when we were there but you should still find a fair number, in situ, of all 4 of the styles.
The Casa dell'Ara Massima (in English, House of Maximum Ara) is also called House of the Narcissus due the small fresco in the centre of the main room.
The owner of the residence, or however its inhabitant, remains anonymous as his profession.
The house was probably built in the 3rd century AC and its dimensions are not very big. On the walls you can see wonderful frescos (IV style) well preserved.
You can visit the house booking the visit on the site below.
Throughout the city, you can see many well preserved frescoes and wall paintings. These decorative forms of art usually depict allegorigal scenes or elements from mythology. The colors are in some places, still quite vibrant. Its therefore easy to imagine the way it was prior to that fatefull day in 79 AD. In parts of the city, the wall paintings are protected by a plexiglass covering. This assumedly, is to protect them from the elements.
Close to the House of Loreius Tiburtinus there is the wonderful Casa di Venere (in English, House of the Venus Marina) which gives its name to the fantastic painting of the Venus.
The house was built in the first century B.C. and it was damaged by a bomb in 1943 and uncovered in 1952.
All the rooms are around the garden and the peristyle. On the south wall you can see the wonderful painting showing a lush garden, filled with flora and fauna, with a low transenna and other decorative elements spread across three panels. To the right is a fountain basin painted with birds, to the left a statue of Mars. A center window gives the illusion of opening onto the sea, where the goddess Venus lies with two cherubs in a pink seashell.
Behind the the atrium there is the first peristyle with 28 ionic columns with a basin in the middle. On the floor of the exedra you can see the most important mosaic discovered in the town: the Alexander Mosaic. It shows the Battle of Issus in 333 BC between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia. The one you can see nowadays is a copy of the 20th century; the original one is in the National Museum of Naples. Behind the exedra you can see the second peristyle with Doric columns.
On the west side of the peristyle you can see some triclinium fully decorated: in one you can see Achilles, Briseis and Patroclus, Jason and Pelias and Tethys with Vulcan; in another you can see Diana with Actaeon, Leda and Venus; the third one, called the Golden Room, have got fantastic geometrical frescos with animals, plants and cupids.
More photos in my travelogue.
The Casa di Orfeo (Orfeo's House) was built during the Sannitis times, but it was modified around 10-15 DC. On the wall of the Peristilio there is a wonderful fresco showing Orfeo fra le fiere (Orfeo among the animals).
The tomb of Vestoria Prisco Is located just inside of the Vesuvio Gate. Beautiful frescoes such as these line the inside of the walled burial chamber. I have been unable to locate information about Vestoria Prisco. If anyone knows a source (in english) that discusses Vestoria please let me know.
In the mean time, you will just have to make due with the examination these beautiful frescoes
The Roman civilisation had not supplied a lot of paintings more fragile than the statues. The archeologists discovered in Pompei a lot of paintings and frescos with an inimitable red color.
We ignore if this red is the original one or if it is the result of the time or of the heat of the lava.
The most famous paintings are visible in the Naples Museum (when the room is open)
The basic color is aways red and the picture is tiny and in the centre. It's especially interesting how all those creatures remind us of Christian Angels...
I apologize for the bad quality of following "fresco" pictures
We learned a great deal from reading the remaining frescos of Pompeii. Obviously, we can see what their lives resembled back then, because many, many of their activities are recorded plainly for us to see today. Apparently, Pompeii citizens were freaks! The liked to record all sexual positions and acts plainly. I guess they really did not like to have the birds and bees discussion with their kids, so they just put up art to teach them. Thats my theory anyway.
For the degenerates among you, there is a book in the gift shop of all the various ways Pompeii people liked to get it on. Or, maybe is it, that your parents didn't have that discussion with you either?
If you are an adult and are not offended by nudity then you should take one of the extra side tour that the guides will offer to you.
There are some paintings on the wall of one of the brothels that you should not miss as it is funny.
The guides use to charge a little extra for the tour but now you get it free but remember it is not really for the kids.
Thought this a bit interesting - because sailors in Pompei came from so many foreign countries and spoke so many languages, when they went to the brothels they couldn't always describe what services they wanted. If you look close, you can see a "menu" of various positions from which patrons could pick and choose. Look out, McDonald's!
These beautiful wall art can be found everywhere on the walls of houses in Pompei. They probably depict life in ancient Pompei, which can teach more about this city. They are very well preserved despite the volcanic eruption devastation.
This fresco, found in the House of the Vettii, is an example of the many erotic images found throughout Pompeii. The "Secret Room" at the Archeological Museum in Naples has an excellent collection of various Pompeian metal, stone and ceramic objects, many of which feature the male phallus, bestiality and the sort. See my Naples page for more information on this intriguing subject.