Again, as seen above, while the seemingly simplest of these painting
types, Style I, involved the representation of faux marble or other
building materials like simple ashlar, jade, or even gold or silver which
were in some cases rare or economically out of the house-owners' reach,
even the Style I finishes enhanced the home and gave it a sort of
pedigree beyond what materially the house could actually afford. In this
instance, the painted illusion on the wall area called attention to the
building itself. But, in all cases, Pompeiian wall painting and design
arguably transformed the house and connected it, if only in the realm of
the intellect or the fantasy, with things, people, and concepts beyond
itself: the palatial materials or vocabulary of fabrication; creatures from
the sea, the forest, or even from more intimate gardens. There was also
history, poetry, or mythology to paint into the house. It is as though the
house established a sort of pedigree for itself by way of its visual linkage
to figures like Ionic columns, Helens of Troy,  or to sacrificial Iphigenias.
It so happens, however, that a careful review of the sort of dramatis
personae of characters who figure in major or minor capacities in the
painted frescoes left to us by that city gradually reveals what seems like
a preferred vocabulary. (
CLICK here, please, to see my list.) And
although as a commercially prosperous city of the ancient world in 79
A.D. Pompeii left for posterity its share of wall images covering the
entire gamut of Mediterranean mythology, if one knows one's Helens of
Troy, Iphigenias, or Jupiters ravishing young-boy Ganymedes -- their
sources to be found even today in books and narratives by Homer, Ovid,
Virgil, etc. -- there may be a curious ommission.
  In short, it became clear to me after one or two walks through the
fresco rooms of the Museum in Naples, that none of those works depicted
one of the most famous and standard narrative sagas of classical
literature -- Homer's
Odyssey --! Indeed, though one finds in Naples
and Pompeii some representations of Homer's hero, Ulysses, they are
from the Iliac epic (that is, The Iliad), not from the Odyssey per se.   For
instance, I have not come across any figure of Odysseus' homecoming
voyage to his longed-for Ithaka.  Why are there no signs of his wife,
Penelope, anywhere in Pompeii?
To paraphrase, then, my architectural historian friend, Where are the
Odyssey and its women in Pompeii? Does this absence add a significant
level of meaning to our understanding of this ancient place, and if so,
just what?
                          *     *     *     *     *
  In her seminal text,
Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (2008),
Cambridge classicist Mary Beard warns, "absence of evidence does not
indicate evidence of absence," and her archaeological maxim is certainly
worth considering. But I have also thought that the absence of all things
Odysseyan in Pompeii's household images might be comparable to those
faceless, white plaster casts of victims once sees now in glass cases
throughout the dig, belonging to the humans and animals who did not
manage to escape the city on August 24, 79 A.D.  Pockets of forms --
empty forms --  left by those Pompeian residents, dogs, even donkeys,
who perished and were buried by the hot ashes,  and that we gape and
aw when we walk by some of the glass display cases in the city today.
Since the extremely high temperatures and ash of the eruption had all
but disintegrated the flesh and bones of these and other organic forms of
life in the town -- it took the ingenious archaeological thinking of
Giuseppe Fiorelli in the 1800s to of filling in those voids in the ash with
plaster or gesso, to "see" and to show us their body of evidence!
Toroazul Painting and Fine Arts
  Pompeii : See it like a native
When a close friend of mine and architectural historian first moved to
Miami from Michigan not too long ago, and I drove her around what I
thought were the more colorful parts of the area of Little Havana, she
suddenly interjected: "But . . . where are the women?"
  The question, as she then went on to explain, had also occurred to her
when she visited parts of southern Italy, "where all you could see," she
insisted, "on street corners or cafes, were men!"
 In fact, speaking of Italy, when Mount Vesuvius erupted in the year 79
A.D., its volcanic ash and lava variously buried not only the women but
the entire towns of Pompeii, Herculanum, and Stabiae along the Gulf of
Naples. But a series of recent visits of my own to these archaeological
areas have suggested to me that Pompeii itself has hidden something else
from us all these years. And it may have to do with, well, the women!
 But only certain ones -- er, well, I will explain.
The Pompeian house paid special attention to what one could call its axis
of vision -- the way, when one entered the space, one could see from the
vestibule or "fauces" clear across the lovely atrium area with its charming
skylight and all the way back to the main living parlor or dining rooms.
Most often, too, as shown in the photograph below, traversing some
dramatic alternations between dark and lighted areas, the axial vector
would include a colonnade or the small niche or templar structure
dedicated to the family "lares" or ancestor deities. For Pompeian families,
line meant more than a geometric or optic concept: it could mean
familiarity or moral connection.
But as early as the years 200 B.C., the
fresco paintings and mosaic designs that
were applied mural-like to these interiors
became just as important as the stones and
beams used to construct the spaces
Today's visitors to Pompeii, however, often
do not see the Pompeian house in all its
implications, even if they do enter those
houses that are open to the public and take
in their atrium and garden structures with
the axial intention just described!
This is because most of the mural decoration (in mosaic and fresco) of
this architectural world heritage site was either stolen or destroyed in
the course of time or transferred for safekeeping to a museum-- for
the most part, the grand rooms of the Museo Archaeologico Nazionale
in nearby Naples. But more important, much of the uninformed
tourism that arrives in Pompeii by the bus load will not insist on
stopping by the Museum either because of the horror stories that
abound about thieves and traffic in that great Italian port or, sadder
yet, because they simply do not think painting and decoration have
anything truly fundamental to do with the building of houses.
But a
careful walk inside the fresco rooms of the Archaeological Museum in
Naples shows a Pompeian fascination or preoccupation with certain
figures or symbols that is anything but worthy of dismissal.
Archaeologists agree that beginning in the 200's B.C., Pompeian house
owners began to embellish the walls of their homes with fresco
paintings, stucco finishing, and mosaic designs meant to call attention
to the wall surface much as we do nowadays when we hang pictures or
attach trim on our own walls. , as a 2-dimensional surface, for
example, as seen in this photo of a part of a wall.
While this type of faux finish (called by art historians Style I ) might
conceivably have been chosen as a form of ostentation, it also underlined
the physicality of the upright wall as a tectonic element, as a material
character in the story of the house. Style I was followed by a more
illusionistic level of decoration, where wall surfaces were treated in fresco
or mosaic to create the effect that one was somehow viewing another
space inside it; for example, they would paint windows that were not
really there, as well as columns, arches, and any other architectural
form imaginable, as suited their fancy. This is called Style II,
but in this approach the illusionist architecture, often paying close
attention to issues of perspective and axonometric representation,  could
include a wide array of human, animal, and godly figures either singly,
in groupings, or in some sort of narrative context. These images, in short,
punctured the wall's solidity and allowed one to see literally worlds
beyond their immediate enclosures, ranging from lighthearted erotic
fantasies to high drama, even tragedy.

Style I --- Pompeian painting

Style III --- Pompeian painting

Style II --- Pompeian painting
"plaster cast" of victim
                              -- Pompeii
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