Uncovering Pompeii’s Frescoes

Over 100 artworks that were covered in the dust of the Mount Vesuvius volcanic eruption are now on display at the National Museum of Rome. The frescoes, which adorned public and private buildings in the village before the volcano’s explosion in A.D. 79, were removed to prevent looting in the 18th century, but they’ve only been restored over the last decade.

Archaeologists who later excavated Pompeii were drawn to the vivid colors used by the local artists (still bright despite the dust), and henceforth dubbed one particularly bright hue Pompeii Red (curators have co-opted the name for the exhibit). The International Herald Tribune reports that the museum’s images range “from the mythical to the mundane, from Theseus standing triumphant over the body of the Minotaur to still lifes showing what could be found in the pantry of a wealthy Roman kitchen. Delicacies on the menu included dried fruits, mushrooms and moray eels.”

Part of the exhibit also features a reconstructed room from a Pompeii home, called the House of the Golden Bracelet because a skeleton of a woman wearing a golden bracelet was found inside. The room features frescoes depicting “gardens with flowers and shrubs such as oleanders, viburnums and strawberry trees, and it is populated by many birds, among which are swallows, doves, turtle-doves, nightingales, [and] magpies.” There are also a series of paintings uncovered during the discovery, in 2000, of an ancient hotel (we’d love to know more about hospitality back in B.C.). Kids can also learn fresco-painting techniques at the museum (adults, may we suggest our past Tour Guide post to help develop your own painting skills).

“Pompeii Red” runs through March 20, and costs US $14.

Learn more about restaurants and attractions in Rome in Traveler’s Places of a Lifetime guide to the city.

Photo: The National Museum of Rome