When Mount Vesuvius covered the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum with ash and lava in AD 79, it also preserved hundreds of murals in the homes and villas of the wealthy. 1700 years later, starting in the middle of the 18th century, these treasures, along with all the other remains of Roman life in the Imperial period, were liberated in large numbers from their original locations, salvaged piece by piece and transferred to the archaeological collections of Naples.
There they were cut into pictures with simple frames, creating a kind of antique picture gallery. This transfer was also a safeguard against wind and weather, and so the pictures were able to survive in surprisingly good condition to this day. Many of the wall paintings had painted decorative borders, so that the transformation into almost modern-looking paintings is by no means irrelevant.
Such a large stock of Roman paintings accumulated in Naples that since then only parts can be exhibited in the archaeological museum there. So, unbelievably, you have a largely unused depot of these partly delicate, partly hearty and playful, sometimes strictly drawn, sometimes dabbed Art to do. It shows a colorful mixture of everyday life, still life, animals, landscapes, the sea, ships and a lot of mythology – a separate educational canon, mostly of Greek origin, becomes recognizable, accessible knowledge, as it can still be acquired in humanistic high schools today.
Now the Museo Civico Archeologico in the beautiful northern Italian university city of Bologna had the idea of putting on a large show of Pompeian painting, which for the first time draws on the depots of the colleagues in Naples. More than two-thirds of the more than 120 pieces on display come from this stock. Such a wide one Exhibition By all accounts, Roman painting will no longer exist in this generation. That in itself is sensational. But the preparation in the exhibition is also sensationally good, from the working techniques, the materials to the original room and lighting conditions and the painted objects (quite literally with original finds from Pompeian households, for example a charred piece of bread) all the important aspects of this art brings to view.
Thankfully, an extensively illustrated catalog has now also been published (I pittori di Pompei / The painters of Pompeii, a cura di Mario Grimaldi, with Mondo Mostre), so that the unique event remains documented for posterity. However, anyone who has the opportunity should use the next three weeks (until March 19) to visit the colorful reflection of Roman life for themselves. The light, the people and their looks, they shine like young, because they come from a time capsule: life, painted and lived, froze within minutes. You want to tiptoe through or start a conversation right away.