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The Painters of Pompeii at Museo Civico Archeologico, Bologna, September 23, 2022 – March 19, 2023

 “The Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna presents The Painters of Pompeii. Following critically acclaimed presentations at Oklahoma City Museum of Art and New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, the exhibition expands with a much greater number of works as it returns to Italy and marks one of the most anticipated exhibitions of the autumn exhibition season in Europe. Presenting over 100 rare frescoes, with almost half having never left Naples since they were excavated in the 18th century, the show is in collaboration with the National Archaeological Museum of Naples – the largest archaeological painting gallery in the world. Curated by Roman art expert Mario Grimaldi and produced by MondoMostre, it offers the opportunity to view ancient masterpieces in dialogue with the original tools used to create them and reconstructions of Pompeian rooms, featuring wall paintings and items dug by Bourbon archaeologists. 

The exhibition draws a renewed focus on the pictores: artists and craftsmen who created the wall decorations in the houses of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Vesuvian area. Very little information is known about these makers, with their artworks widely baring no signature. Since revealed by the Bourbon excavations, the artifacts they left behind act as valuable pictorial testimonies of Vesuvian life and its organisation. The Painters of Pompeii seeks to contextualise the pictores’ role and economic condition in Roman society whilst highlighting their techniques, tools, colours, and models. Through the wealth of images preserved after the eruption in 79 AD – namely vibrant, often large-scale frescoes – we see a reflection of the tastes and values of various clients while gaining a greater understanding of their production system.” — Museo Civico Archeologico

Philosopher with Macedonia and Persia, Boscoreale, Villa di Fannio Sinistore, oecus (H), west wall fresh, 240 x 345 MANN, Inv. S.n. inv. 906 1st century BC – II style
Hercules and Omphale, Pompeii, IX, 3, 5, House of Marcus Lucretius, triclinium 16, east wall, central section, painting Fresh, 195 x 155 cm MANN, Inv. 8992 1st century A.D. – IV style
Aphrodite and Mars, Pompeii, VII, 2, 23, House of Punished Love, tablinum f, south wall, central section, painting Fresco, 154 x 116 cm MANN, Inv. 9249 1st century A.D. – III style
The Three Graces Pompeii, VI, 17, 31 or 36 Insula Occidentalis, Masseria di Cuomo – Irace Fresco, 57 x 53 cm MANN, Inv. 9231 1st century A.D. – IV style
Polychrome stucco with a female figure at the door, Pompeii, VI, 9, 2-13, House of Meleager, tablinum (8), east wall, upper register stucco – fresco, 178 x 188 MANN, Inv. 9595 1st century AD – IV style
Wall in IV style with “Natura Morta” (xenia), Pompeii, Praedia of Iulia Felix, Reg. II, 4, 3, tablinum (92), south wall fresco, 298 x 447 MANN, Inv. 8598 1st century AD – IV style

‘If classical Grecian painters were deemed ‘‘property of the universe’’ by Pliny the Elder, their Roman pictore contemporaries were skilled craftsmen. Painting was relegated to the work of freedmen, slaves, women and people incapable of political and military life, all tasked with adapting works to suit their clients’ personalities, needs, homes and decoration. Informed by excavations of Vesuvian rooms preserved perfectly in situ, the exhibition uses masterworks from the Collection of Frescoes of the National Archaeological Museum of Naples to offer a re-reading of how pictores operated anonymously within these houses.’ — Mario Grimaldi, exhibition curator

Images courtesy Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna.

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