Friday, August 22, 2014

Pic o' the Day #1328- TGIF!

Ever have one of those weeks? Imagine these poor stiffs- can't even go home and take a shower to wash whatever that accumulated stuff is. From Naples.

Atlantes supporting a Doric entablature on a commercial building in Naples

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pic o' the Day #1327- Thanks for Dancing!

Big thanks to those who joined us last night at the Grand Annex in San Pedro to celebrate the power of music!! Even if you only danced in your seats!

Opus sectile panel with Dionysiac dancers from the House of the Colored Capitals in Pompeii

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pic o' the Day #1326- Pin the tail on the What?

All we know about Roman era painting (Greek too, for that matter,) comes to us in the form of wall paintings. None of the panel paintings have survived the perils of time, with the exception of the funerary portraits that were locked away in the tombs of Egypt. But in a second hand way, we know that they existed, partly by verbal descriptions from Vitruvius and Pliny, and also by their depictions in several murals, such as this image from the House of the Ara Maxima in Pompeii.

If you look closely at the painting of Narcissus looking at his reflection in the water, you can see that both sides are flanked by folded shutters, which is how these paintings were protected (it also made them easy to display on a flat surface!) They are known as pinakes, and it's where we get the word Pinacoteca, meaning art gallery, which you will see in many places in Italy. Too bad none of the real things has survived!

Genre painting of Narcissus is given a trompe l'oeil shuttered frame. From the House of the Ara Maxima, Pompeii.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pic o' the day #1325- It's the little things that count

In some of the later wall paintings of Pompeii and Herculaneum you'll find a whole wall painted just one color, with some kind of small image in the center of it. Could be an Eros, or a dancer, or just some birds, eating fruit. From the House of the Grand Portal in Herculaneum.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pic o' the Day #1324- What a Pain in the Neck!

One of the first things that started me down this rabbit hole of ornamental research was wanting to know about Pompeian style ceilings for a project I was working on. At first I had difficulty finding images of ceilings, but I now have about 350 of them, including these. I'm a little surprised at the energy that was often spent on ceiling decorations, which are very hard on the body, making it difficult and time consuming to do. For more photos of what I did at the house go to this earlier post.

This is a ceiling in the Casa del Salone Nero (Black Salon) in Herculaneum, with a ceiling that preserves both the painting and the vaulted form.

This is a reconstruction drawing of one of the ceilings in the Domus Aurea, Nero's palace in Rome.

Here's what I came up with for the ceiling at my project, with a bit of frieze inspired by the Villa della Farnesina in Rome. I'm still waiting for the go ahead to do the walls of the room!
By the way, Michelangelo never painted lying down; here's his little drawing of himself, in a letter where he is complaining about the pain in his neck!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

pic o' the day #1323- Grand Illusions!

One of my very favorite wall paintings anywhere in the Bay of Naples is in the House of the Great Portal in Herculaneum. Not a very large or fancy house in general, but the quality of this work sets it apart. The restrained color is elegant yet dramatic; it's too bad the lower parts of the walls are all gone!

Only bummer about the room is how most of the lower walls are gone. I'd love to see what the pedestals looked like!

The upper area consists of a continuous frieze band and a background of blue architectural elements.

Frieze of curtains, masks, and trophies seems to refer to the theater.

Above the curtained frieze is this monochrome gray/blue architectural fantasy, typical of the mature 4th style (ca 60-70 AD)

Detail of the curtain and architectural elements. Awesome brevity and economy of color.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Pic o' the Day #1322- Monday Monday

As some of you may have noticed, my output since going over to posting on the blog page (then sharing on Facebook) has slowed down a bit, though the number of photos has actually gone up. This is because it's easier to post a few on the blog, but then I have to write more about them, which slows me down. Therefore, without further ado, and for your pleasure, I give you 5 photos with little commentary, all taken from the House of the Beautiful Courtyard (Bel Cortile), which certainly lives up to its name.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pic o' the Day #1321- Sunday is Bath Day!

Just kidding! I don't even have a bathtub! Then again, neither did most Roman homes (except the really fancy ones.) Most of them relied on public baths, which were plentiful, cheap, and very well decorated. These shots are from the Women's Bath in Herculaneum, one of several large bathhouses that are preserved there. Unlike Hollywood's lurid depiction of loose morals and prolific sex, Romans were actually fairly modest, and most baths were segregated by sexes.

One feature I have noticed in several of the baths there are the ridged ceilings, which are not only attractive to the eye, but they also serve to keep water from dripping on one's head (by funneling it down to troughs on the wall.) Very nice when your in the caldarium (hot room) where the drips can sting quite a bit, especially on your head! 

Mosaic floor in the women's bath house at Herculaneum. 

Room with a large communal tub and a vaulted plaster ceiling.
The ridges serve to channel condensing water down to the moldings on the walls- away from your head!

Changing area had shelves for setting your things on and benches to change on.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pic o' the Day #1320- Back on the Good Foot

A visit to Herculaneum seemed to confirm that all was not lost in the modern world. There has been a big effort at Herculaneum to preserve and conserve what is there, much of it done by the Getty Institute. Here are a few shots of the fabulous Sacellum Augustus, a shrine to Caesar Augustus that maintains not only these beautiful frescoes, but also the charred remnants of the wooden beams that once supported the upper floors.

The central image of this panel represents Hercules with Juno and Minerva surrounded by a stage-like architectural setting

Detail of a spiraling column with a Corinthian capital

Trompe l'oeil vista as seen through a break in the wall depicts a delicate architecture typical of the later styles (3rd and 4th) of wall painting.
Charred remains of the wooden structure that supported the upper floor. The volcanic debris at Herculaneum had more water in it than at Pompeii, thus some of the organic matter (wood, food, etc,) was better preserved.

Detail of a trompe l'oeil overhang with coffered underside

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pic o' the day #1319- Don't believe the Hype!

After reading in many guidebooks that the modern town of Pompeii was to be avoided, we were pleasantly surprised by it's large park like piazza, active passeggiata, and beautiful 19th century Marian church. Say what you will about 19th century ornament; they had worked it out to a science, which in the right hands could be masterful.
View of the main dome in the Beata Vergine del Rosario, the main basilica in the town of Pompei

View of the apse, painted in the late 19th century

Detail of ornament

Spandrel ornament over an arched window

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pic o' the Day #1318- Sunday Style Supplement (a day late!)

As I said a few posts ago, I'm not going to go deep on the painting styles of Pompeii just yet, but here's a little teaser for when I do. The Fourth Style is sometimes known as the Baroque or Intricate period of Roman painting. As it was the last period of art before Vesuvius buried Pompeii (in 79 AD), it is found in many places in the Bay of Naples. Although the styles continued to evolve in other parts of the Roman Empire, by far the largest bulk of our knowledge comes from this area that was so well preserved under the tons of ashes left by the volcano. 
One of the easy ways to recognize work that was done in this late style is what are sometimes called "Embroidery" style borders: simple but precise one or two colored strips with repeating elements that are usually quite abstract. Here's a few examples from my trip last summer.

"Embroidery" border in the baths area of the Villa San Marco at Stabia

Another pattern from the same room
corner detail from the House of the Gilded Cupids in Pompeii

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pic o' the Day #1317- Happy Friday!

Detail of a decorative column used as a panel division in the Villa Arianna at Stabia. Very delicate and refined work.