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AGRUMED: Archaeology and history of citrus fruit in the Mediterranean

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Véronique Zech-Matterne
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Girolamo Fiorentino

Painted gardens: Observations on execution technique

Ernesto De Carolis

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  • 1 This paper is a reduced version derived from the original Italian, with an updated bibliography, of (...)

1The cities of the area around Vesuvius have a rich repertory of frescoes showing lush gardens, attributable to the Third (25-20 BC to AD 40-50) and Fourth Styles (around AD 50 to AD 79).1

2The numerous examples discovered attest to the strong appreciation shown by the artistic patrons of the epoch for these refined compositions, which, as we can see from their presence in various types of dwelling, were popular throughout Vesuvian society.

  • 2 On the organisation of the artists’ workshops in the Vesuvian area and the methods applied in the e (...)
  • 3 Zanker 1993: esp. 151-221.

3The patrons’ wish to extend, albeit by means of an illusion, the modest green space attached to their properties prompted them to commission artists to paint these compositions on one or more walls of their homes.2 Thus, we see a clear desire to use artistic fantasy to recreate what they did not possess in reality, i.e. a luxuriant garden with statues and fountains, surrounded by columns joined to each other by low wooden fences. Such gardens were typical of the urban houses of the upper classes, who in turn sought to reproduce in miniature the grand parks that surrounded the rural villas of the early Imperial epoch.3

  • 4 Overall, Jashemski’s catalogue, which also includes the hunting scenes with animals, lists 121 exam (...)

4Indeed, the paintings of gardens4 are found most frequently in the dwellings of the Vesuvian middle classes, almost always on the walls of small courtyards or incomplete peristyles enclosing a green space. In some cases the paintings formed the backdrop to a mosaic fountain.

  • 5 Two interesting exceptions to this rule are the garden compositions executed in the Fourth Style on (...)

5In contrast, in upper class dwellings, these compositions are quite rare, and generally serve to decorate the walls of closed environments. This paper examines the most significant examples of these, which reflect the preferences of patrons who had no need to resort to pictorial illusion to create additional green space, and thereby used them to beautify their homes.5

  • 6 Pitture e Mosaici 1990, II: 15-35, nn. 23-47; 113-124, nn. 140-169 a-b.
  • 7 Firenze 1991; Roma 1993: 325-335, nn. 241-242; Pitture e Mosaici 1996, VI: 117-138, nn. 150-178; To (...)

6Among the conserved Vesuvian paintings executed in closed spaces are the famous pictorial complexes discovered in Rooms 8 and 12 of the Casa del Frutteto, the House of the Fruit Orchard6 (I 9, 5) and Rooms 31 and 32 of the Casa del Bracciale d’Oro, the House of the Golden Bracelet7 (VI 17, Ins. Occ., 42) in Pompeii. These examples are considered to belong to the Third Style (25-20 BC to AD 40-50).

7Elements common to both rooms in the House of the Orchard include the three-way division of the garden scene on the central wall by means of slim columns, perhaps imitating an arbour, and a lower black band. Specifically, in the first room the lower band is decorated with tufts of plants and in the mid-section, in addition to the usual latticework screen, there is a luxuriant garden on a blue background with Egyptian-style statues. Also in the mid-section, on each wall there is a framed picture on a pillar with a Dionysian scene (Dionysus and Ariadne, Satyr and Maenad, players of the drums and the cithara; figs. 1-2). Above the mid-section, the upper part is characterised by garlands with hanging oscilla, in the form of Satyresses masks on the back wall and circular on the side walls, and by birds in flight or resting on the epistyle of the pergola, together with marble vases and framed pictures with scenes recalling Egypt.

8Worthy of note in this environment is the representation of a lemon tree, unique to the Vesuvian area (fig. 1). Its iconographic rarity may indicate that it was not particularly widespread in society, perhaps initially being used for medicinal purposes rather than for daily consumption.

Fig.1 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 8, depiction of a lemon tree (detail).

Fig.1 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 8, depiction of a lemon tree (detail).

© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

Fig.2 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 8, cherry tree (detail).

Fig.2 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 8, cherry tree (detail).

© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

  • 8 The decision to make the shrubs and birds stand out against a uniform black background may reflect (...)

9The second room differs from the first by the absence of the upper area and the inclusion of a predella above the dark lower band. On the predella is a latticework screen framing a central hemicycle on the east and north walls, inside which is a jug and a situla, attributes of Isis. On the back wall, beyond the lattice are lush blooming shrubs on a turquoise background and fluted vases full of water, while on the side walls there are basins with gushing fountains (fig. 3). This particular composition substantially reduces the section above it, which presents a garden on a black background with shrubs rigidly separated from each other in an unreal atmosphere8 that appears to clash with the evocation of the more realistic scene on the predella (fig. 4). In this cubicle the pictor sought to highlight the back wall with the representation of a flourishing fig tree and a snake, the symbol of knowledge and regeneration, sinuously climbing the trunk; the fulcrum of the entire ornamental system.

Fig. 3 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 12: East wall, figs with snake on the tree trunk.

Fig. 3 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 12: East wall, figs with snake on the tree trunk.

© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

Fig. 4 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 12: Plum tree (detail).

Fig. 4 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 12: Plum tree (detail).

© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

10The three-way division of the wall is also seen in Room 31 of the House of the Golden Bracelet, which faces onto a small, green space. This originally contained a nymphaeum with a mosaic fountain, decorated by a sophisticated garden scene on the back wall and two high rectangular niches on the side walls. Subsequently, three stone triclinium couches were installed in the space. Their podia occupies almost the entire internal space and obscures the lower band of the painting which is decorated to look like marble. The mid-section presents a garden composition, with birds in flight or resting on branches. This is divided into three parts by slim columns and latticework structures that frame the representation and delimit a turquoise central niche (fig. 5). The lower part of the composition has the usual latticework screen with rectangular openings, behind which, in the left panel, two Egyptian-style statues face each other on either side of a circular basin with a gushing fountain and, in the right panel, two sphinxes face each other on either side of a rectangular frame showing the bull deity Apis on a pillar. The central panel is mostly occupied by the niche in the wall. The composition is completed in the upper part with an oscillum in the form of a female theatrical mask in the central panel and circular oscilla with human protomes in the side panels. Each panel is characterised by three flourishing shrubs in the foreground that stand out against the vegetation behind them and against the pale-blue sky, which is crossed by various species of birds. Other birds are shown resting on branches or on the latticework structures.

Fig. 5 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 31: view of the central niche with depiction of shrubs and birds in flight (detail).

Fig. 5 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 31: view of the central niche with depiction of shrubs and birds in flight (detail).

© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

  • 9 Napoli 2006: 190-191, III. 60.

11Due to the presence of the mosaic fountain, the pictorial decoration of the back wall is reduced to just two panels positioned on either side, characterised by two sphinxes with spread wings facing each other against a background of lush vegetation. Of the north wall only a few painted patches remain but the surviving fragments clearly indicate that is was retouched in a subsequent epoch, perhaps following the frequent seismic shocks that affected the area of Vesuvius before the eruption. The painters appear to have repeated, in a more approximate and cursive form, the compositional scheme of the south wall.9

  • 10 Settis 2005.

12The compositional scheme of Room 32, positioned adjacent to Room 31, is completely different. In this case the patron ordered the pictor to paint a continuous garden scene on the mid-section of all three walls that can be considered, in the area of Vesuvius, the closest example of the famous image discovered in the Villa of Livia (ad gallinas albas) in the Prima Porta district near Rome.10

13The lower band has a row of ornamental plants on a black background, while the upper area is divided into three parts by vertical elements with pergola-shaped aediculae alternating with small amphorae, circular oscilla with human faces and framed pictures with masks and felines. The composition is completed by hanging garlands with oscilla, shaped like a peltarion and a lantern on the long sides, and either circular or theatrical mask shaped on the short sides.

14The lower part of the mid-section is decorated with a latticework screen with openings of various shapes at regular intervals through which the vegetation can be seen. Immediately above, this vegetation explodes into a luxuriant mass of plants and flowers with birds resting on branches or in flight, standing out against the turquoise sky (fig. 6).

Fig. 6 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32: detail of the sycamore tree in the center.

Fig. 6 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32: detail of the sycamore tree in the center.

© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

15Above, the composition is framed by two oscilla shaped like female theatrical masks on each of the long sides and circular with female faces on the back wall. The decoration of the environment is completed by two lunettes on the entrance wall showing doves and fruits on the sides of a window, while on the back wall they frame a basin. On the long sides the garden scene is characterised in the foreground by the symmetrical representation of two hermai on columns, above which is a framed picture, on each side of a hemispherical shell-shaped basin with a gushing fountain. On the north wall the hermai have both female and male heads, with the features of Silenus including the characteristic pointed ears, while the framed pictures show Ariadne and Maenad. On the south wall, only a herme with a girl’s head is conserved, together with a framed picture showing a Maenad (fig. 7).

Fig. 7 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32: Viburnum plant (detail).

Fig. 7 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32: Viburnum plant (detail).

© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

16In a high position on each wall, standing out against the blue sky, are two oscilla in the form of female theatrical masks. The back wall (east) has a turquoise rectangular niche in the centre of the mid-section with no sculptural elements, but there are two birds (a jay and a sultana bird) on the ground and a dove in flight, with outstretched wings and a black head, framed by two circular oscilla with female protomes, arranged vertically in line with the niche. In addition, it can be observed that on this wall the pictor also symmetrically positioned the shrubs – a strawberry tree and an oleander separated by a palm tree – in the foreground, on each side of the niche (figs. 8-10).

Fig. 8 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32, date palm (detail).

Fig. 8 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32, date palm (detail).

© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

Fig. 9 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32, Gallic rose plant (detail).

Fig. 9 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32, Gallic rose plant (detail).

© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

Fig. 10 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32, oleander and strawberry tree (detail).

Fig. 10 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32, oleander and strawberry tree (detail).

© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

17The presence of the niche with the unusual representation of the dove with outstretched wings above it and the symmetrical arrangement of the shrubs on each side of it suggest that the niche is in fact the focal point of the entire composition of the room. For some unknown reason, it appears that the patron wanted the eye of the visitor to be drawn precisely to this point.

  • 11 Guidobaldi, Olevano 1998: 235, plate 12, n. 5.
  • 12 De Caro 1983: 316-317.

18The flooring of the room is in opus sectile with square modules and segments of various fine marbles,11 while in front of the back wall is a mosaic section which again marks off a place reserved for a lectus.12

19As already mentioned in previous studies, it is not always possible to precisely determine the function of the individual spaces of a Roman house, nor whether there is any relationship with the pictorial decoration.

  • 13 Pitture e Mosaici 1996, VII: 175, n. 45; 204-209, nn. 103-111; Pitture e Mosaici 1997, VII: 158, n. (...)

20This is also the case with the significant examples cited above, with the exception of Room 31 in the House of the Golden Bracelet. Indeed, the presence of the mosaic fountain and the stone benches identify it as a space for social occasions where the atmosphere was established by the sound of running water. The decision to decorate the walls with garden paintings is not a coincidence but reflects the tendency of the 1st century AD to incorporate these compositions in spaces characterised by the presence of water. This is seen in both private contexts, as in the caldarium of the House of the Labyrinth in the Third Style, and public contexts, as in the nymphaeum of the Stabian baths and the frigidaria of both the Stabian baths and the old Forum Baths, attributable to the Fourth Style.13 Thus the pictorial theme of gardens tended to be used for spaces which had a close association with the natural world. Even the height of the triclinium podia was carefully chosen so as to cover only the fresco’s lower fake-marble band, while the elegant garden composition of the mid-section surrounded the company with a clear reference to the summer triclinia. Of the latter, the Vesuvian area provides numerous examples, positioned below a pergola in the centre of a green area and often combined with structures providing running water.

21Regarding the other three spaces examined here, the data in our possession makes it possible only to speculate on their function and on the relationship with the pictorial decoration.

22In addition to their proximity to spaces for triclinia (except for Room 8 in the House of the Orchard), a common element is the clear break in the flooring in front of the back wall marking off a space in which to position a bed, which we find in numerous other dwellings in the Vesuvian area.

23Even the decorative repertoire itself, despite the above-described differences in the ornamental scheme, is basically similar in terms of the representation of luxuriant nature and full of life, with varying quantities of Dionysian and Egyptian motifs.

  • 14 Le Corsu 1967.

24The particular abundance of the latter in Room 8 of the House of the Orchard suggests that it had been set up as a private ‘oratory’ by the owner, who was a follower of the cult of Isis.14 This hypothesis must be excluded, however, not just because of the presence in the flooring of a space to be used for a bed but also because the inclusion of Egyptian motifs is also found, albeit to a lesser degree, in other Third-Style pictorial compositions with garden scenes. Examples include the triclinium-nymphaeum in the House of the Golden Bracelet, Room 2 of the Casa di Giulio Polibio (House of Julius Polybius) and the caldarium in the House of the Labyrinth, which clearly cannot be considered spaces used for domestic worship.

25Another aspect to be considered is the extreme rarity in Vesuvian paintings of garden compositions in closed spaces as opposed to open ones, thereby demonstrating not the existence of a widespread taste but isolated requests made by patrons to the painters’ studios operating in the area.

26Weighing together all the available elements, it can thus be hypothesised that these three internal rooms are specially assigned spaces, with a decorative programme executed in response to precise requests by two unknown patrons, i.e. the owners of the House of the Orchard and the House of the Golden Bracelet.

27These spaces are able to fulfil their designated function thanks to the representation of a luxuriant, flourishing nature, with colourful birds flying in the sky and gushing fountains where Dionysian and Egyptian themes are incorporated with no particular religious implications.

  • 15 In 1995 Moormann attributed the two environments in the House of the Orchard and Room 32 in the Hou (...)

28Another important issue is the identity of the craftsmen who executed these pictorial cycles. On the basis of the clear iconographic parallels and an examination of the pictorial ductus, recent studies have claimed that a single workshop was responsible for the paintings in all four environments,15 although two different painters may be distinguished: the first is believed to have executed the undercoat and the second the superimposed decorations.

  • 16 See note 2.

29This hypothesis, based on the technical similarities detected in the execution of the compositions, cannot be considered proven, in that this way of creating frescoes was common to all the pictorial studios. Nor can the use of the same colours, such as the yellow of the latticework, the blue of the sky and the various shades of green to represent the density of the vegetation in the foreground be considered decisive proof, since they fall within the routine use of these colours to create garden paintings, as well as being used for numerous types of composition. Moreover, it cannot be argued with certainty that two different painters operated in each environment, which are all modest in size, since the painter of the undercoat may easily have executed the subsequent decorative details. In contrast, it is now known and cannot be verified that other craftsmen working in the same workshop were given the task of applying the various preparatory layers of plaster.16

  • 17 The technical considerations regarding the execution of these paintings emerged thanks to the patie (...)
  • 18 The paintings in the two rooms in the House of the Golden Bracelet were detached in the late 1980s (...)

30Regarding the execution technique,17 it was possible to obtain new data thanks to a fresh reading of the available photographic documentation and the direct observation of the pictorial surface of the two rooms in the House of the Orchard.18

  • 19 Firenze 1991: 11-12.

31The pictorial decoration was executed by the fresco technique, i.e. by applying the colours to the plaster while it was still fresh: the reaction of the slaked lime in the plaster with the atmospheric carbon dioxide enabled the formation of a network of crystalline calcium carbonate that permanently fixed the colours. It is thus clear that the pictor could only apply paint to those parts of the wall where the plaster was fresh, moving from the top downwards in horizontal bands known as ‘pontate’, coinciding with the three-level decorative division of the wall that was typical of the Third and Fourth Styles. Direct observation of Room 12 in the House of the Orchard identified three ‘pontate’ which, despite sealing of the joins, clearly corresponded to the white horizontal lines separating the decorative partitions. The first of these is at a height of about 2.19 m, corresponding to the mid-section, the second at 1.00 m corresponding to the predella and the third at 70 cm, corresponding to the lower section, decorated with geometric motifs. Although it is not quite visible, the same procedure was used in Room 8 in the same House, while in Room 32 of the House of the Golden Bracelet the restoration of the walls clearly highlighted the three horizontal bands.19 In contrast, in Room 31 it was possible to identify only the break between the lower band, painted to resemble marble, and the mid-section.

32Furthermore, it is highly probable that in addition to the horizontal bands, vertical scans (referred to as ‘giornate’) were also necessary, not so much due to the size of the rooms as to the complexity of the compositions in the mid-section of the wall. The vertical breaks in the two cubicles of the House of the Orchard may coincide with the vertical partitions marked by the columns that subdivide the composition, and in Room 31 in the House of the Golden Bracelet with the latticework decoration, which is arranged almost like a cornice around the garden scenes. In Room 32, characterised by the unitary nature of the composition on all three walls, it is not possible to propose any such breaks at this stage of the research, although their presence is plausible.

33Specifically, analysing the garden compositions of the mid-section, it can be seen that concerning the undercoat, blue was used for the sky and green for the part intended for the vegetation. The exception here is Room 12 in the House of the Orchard, where a uniform black colour was used. The green is paler in the sector near the blue of the sky, while it becomes darker towards the lower part of the composition, so as to give the impression of increasingly dense vegetation. All the ornamental details (such as the shrubs, leaves, fruits, flowers and marble decorations) were subsequently executed by the mezzo-fresco technique, using pigments dissolved in limewater or exploiting the calcium hydroxide crystallising on the surface by compressing the plaster. The same system was used to execute all the background vegetation, which in some places in the higher part of the composition covers the blue undercoat, which can be seen where the painted decorative layer has peeled away. Such complex compositions clearly could not have been painted on the wall, using the above-described procedure, without the help of an original model, perhaps on papyrus, presenting a similar representation at least in terms of its basic lineaments.

34Indeed, as demonstrated in recent studies, the pictorial workshops possessed models with a wide range of composition types, which after being selected by the patron were sized to fit the walls of the rooms and in some cases were even personalised to meet particular requests. In order to facilitate the execution of the compositions, a highly schematic preparatory drawing was traced onto the plaster and the pictor then applied the decoration in accordance with the time allowed by the fresco or mezzo-fresco techniques, depending on which part of the composition was to be executed.

35However, close observation of the surface of the mid-section of Room 8 of the House of the Orchard enables an alternative hypothesis to be advanced for the compositions in question. With the help of raking light it was found that some sectors of the decorative parts, following the detachment of the pictorial layer, appear to be impressed on the plaster.

  • 20 This system can be compared with the famous ‘cartoons’ used during the Renaissance for executing de (...)
  • 21 The precision of the representation of botanical and animal species can indeed only be explained by (...)

36On the basis of this important find, it can be hypothesised that the most characteristic elements of the composition were executed not with the help of a preparatory drawing but using a membranous material20 applied to the plaster, retracing the decorations present on the membrane with a tool, perhaps a stick or a bone stylus with a rounded point. In order to accomplish these complex compositions, the pictor adopted a fully-fledged transposition technique in order to replicate a previously drawn image on the same scale,21 perhaps assembling a number of membranous sheets corresponding to the various sectors of the decoration.

  • 22 In the pictorial workshops, the practice of using an extensive repertoire of cut outs to be reprodu (...)

37In order to insert birds into the composition, a different transposition technique was used. In this case the pictor used a series of cut-outs,22 again placed on the plaster, and traced the outline by means of indirect engraving in order to establish the basic shape. The same technique was used to position other ornamental details, such as the basins, vases and statuary, inside the pictorial cycle. Lastly the strictly geometric shapes, such as the framed pictures and the pillars of the hermai, were constructed by means of direct engraving with the help of rulers and set squares.

38Once the entire pictorial composition had been schematically set up on the wall, by means of these systems, the pictor, using a range of colours, completed the painting using the mezzo-fresco technique. Specifically, the work programme followed by the pictor involved first painting all the plant elements, then the ornamental elements and lastly the birds. This order is evident from the almost ‘cut out’ appearance of the various birds represented on the vegetation, particularly those birds and decorative elements that have lost part of the top layer of paint, causing the underlying colour to reappear. Regarding the birds, it is interesting to note that in all contexts the pictor was careful to make them stand out against the undercoat or against what was intended to be background vegetation, but not with respect to the clearly painted shrubs in the foreground of the composition.

  • 23 This particular operation can be identified with the much debated Vitruvian politiones, which proba (...)

39After completing the decorative details it is highly probable that the pictor decided to polish23 the walls in order to give a uniform texture to the entire composition, as is still evident today in Room 12 of the House of the Orchard where the cold and rigorous composition on a black background is highlighted by this operation.

40In conclusion, these observations, which we consider preliminary in the expectation of a more detailed study of the four contexts, highlight the distinctive nature of these Vesuvian pictorial cycles in relation to both their meaning, which can be interpreted in various ways, and the execution technique.

41In any case, these paintings attest to the great love of nature typical of the Roman world and a highly developed illusionary effect, which enabled the creation of such finely executed pictorial cycles.

Bibliographie

Ciarallo 2012: A. Ciarallo, Gli spazi verdi dell’antica Pompei, appendici a cura di C. Giordano, Roma.

De Caro 1983: S. De Caro, Pompei: indagini, scavi, rinvenimenti (1980-83), Pompeii Herculaneum Stabiae, 1, p. 315-321.

De Carolis 2007: E. De Carolis, I giardini dipinti: osservazioni e proposte, in G. Di Pasquale, F. Paolucci (eds.), Il giardino antico da Babilonia a Roma. Scienza, arte e natura, catalogo della mostra (Firenze), Livorno, p. 142-153.

De Carolis et al. 2012: E. De Carolis, F. Esposito, C. Falcucci, D. Ferrara, Riflessioni sul quadro della “Venere in Conchiglia” di Pompei: dal mito al lavoro dei pictores, Rivista di Studi Pompeiani, 23, p. 7-24.

Esposito 2005: D. Esposito, Breve nota su pitture di giardino da Ercolano, Cronache Ercolanesi, 35, p. 223-230.

Fergola 2004: L. Fergola (ed.), Oplontis e le sue ville, Pompei.

Firenze 1991: Il giardino dipinto nella Casa del Bracciale d’Oro a Pompei e il suo restauro, catalogo della mostra (Firenze), Firenze.

Guidobaldi, Olevano 1998: F. Guidobaldi, F. Olevano, Sectilia pavimenta dell’area vesuviana, Studi Miscellanei, 31, p. 223-240, pl. XVIII.

Jashemski 1993: W.M.F. Jashemski, The Gardens of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Villas Destroyed by Vesuvius, New Rochelle.

Le Corsu 1967: F. Le Corsu, Un oratoire pompéien consacré à Dionysos-Osiris, Revue archéologique, 1967, 2, p. 239-254.

Moormann 1995: E.M. Moormann, Giardini ed altre pitture nella Casa del Frutteto e nella Casa del Bracciale d’Oro a Pompei, Mededelingen van het Nederlands Instituut te Rome. Antiquity, 54, p. 214-227.

Napoli 2006: S. De Caro (ed.), Egittomania. Iside e il mistero, catalogo della mostra (Napoli), Milano.

Nimmo, Olivetti 1985-1986: M. Nimmo, C. Olivetti, Sulle tecniche di trasposizione dell’immagine in epoca medioevale, Rivista dell’Istituto Nazionale d’Archeologia e Storia dell’Arte, s. 3, 8-9, p. 399-411.

Piano di Sorrento 2006: T. Budetta (ed.), Il giardino. Realtà e immaginario nell’arte antica, catalogo della mostra (Piano di Sorrento), Castellammare di Stabia.

Pitture e Mosaici 1990-2004: G. Pugliese Carratelli, I. Baldassarre (eds.), Pompei. Pitture e Mosaici, voll. I-X, Roma.

Roma 1993: L. Franchi dell’Orto, A. Varone (eds.), Riscoprire Pompei, catalogo della mostra (Roma), Roma.

Settis 2005: S. Settis, Le pareti ingannevoli. La Villa di Livia e la pittura di giardino, Milano.

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Notes

1 This paper is a reduced version derived from the original Italian, with an updated bibliography, of the essay published in the catalogue of the exhibition called Il giardino antico da Babilonia a Roma. Scienza, arte e natura (De Carolis 2007).

2 On the organisation of the artists’ workshops in the Vesuvian area and the methods applied in the execution of wall paintings, see: De Carolis et al. 2012.

3 Zanker 1993: esp. 151-221.

4 Overall, Jashemski’s catalogue, which also includes the hunting scenes with animals, lists 121 examples of garden paintings that are still conserved today or are cited in the descriptions of the dwellings written in the course of the excavations of Vesuvian sites. Of these, 104 are in Pompeii, 8 in Herculaneum and 9 in the suburban villas (Jashemski 1993: 313-379, nn. 1-121). On the relationship between green spaces and garden painting, see: Ciarallo 2012: 21-51.

5 Two interesting exceptions to this rule are the garden compositions executed in the Fourth Style on the sides of the grand nymphaeum (33) in the Casa del Centenario (House of the Centenary) in Pompeii (Pitture e Mosaici 1999, IX: 995-1024, nn. 173-236) and in Villa A in Oplontis. In the latter building the garden paintings were executed on the walls of two small green spaces flanking a salon (18) that gave access to the piscina. The salon had large windows enabling the visitor to admire the sequence of rooms and viridaria (Fergola 2004: esp. 76-77).

6 Pitture e Mosaici 1990, II: 15-35, nn. 23-47; 113-124, nn. 140-169 a-b.

7 Firenze 1991; Roma 1993: 325-335, nn. 241-242; Pitture e Mosaici 1996, VI: 117-138, nn. 150-178; Torino 1997: 166-167; Piano di Sorrento 2006; Napoli 2006: 190-191.

8 The decision to make the shrubs and birds stand out against a uniform black background may reflect the artist’s intention to give the composition a nocturnal setting.

9 Napoli 2006: 190-191, III. 60.

10 Settis 2005.

11 Guidobaldi, Olevano 1998: 235, plate 12, n. 5.

12 De Caro 1983: 316-317.

13 Pitture e Mosaici 1996, VII: 175, n. 45; 204-209, nn. 103-111; Pitture e Mosaici 1997, VII: 158, n. 7.

14 Le Corsu 1967.

15 In 1995 Moormann attributed the two environments in the House of the Orchard and Room 32 in the House of the Golden Bracelet to a single workshop (Moormann 1995). In a subsequent study, the paintings in Room 31 and Sacellum A in the suburban sacred area in Herculaneum were also assigned to the same workshop (Esposito 2005).

16 See note 2.

17 The technical considerations regarding the execution of these paintings emerged thanks to the patient assistance of Professor Francesco Esposito of the Officina del Restauro, the Restoration Workshop.

18 The paintings in the two rooms in the House of the Golden Bracelet were detached in the late 1980s and are currently conserved in the depositories of the Soprintendenza (archaeological authority). It was not possible therefore to examine the pictorial surfaces, either directly or under raking light, but only with reference to the photographic documentation.

19 Firenze 1991: 11-12.

20 This system can be compared with the famous ‘cartoons’ used during the Renaissance for executing decorative partitions using the fresco technique. It has been suggested that image transposition techniques were also used during the medieval epoch for painting large figures (Nimmo, Olivetti 1985-1986).

21 The precision of the representation of botanical and animal species can indeed only be explained by the existence of an ‘album’ of drawings held by the pictorial workshop, perhaps the result of an acute observation of nature on the part of the pictor.

22 In the pictorial workshops, the practice of using an extensive repertoire of cut outs to be reproduced in a series of variants that could be turned over to create symmetrical equivalents for particular ornamental or repetitive motifs was very common (De Carolis et al. 2012).

23 This particular operation can be identified with the much debated Vitruvian politiones, which probably referred not only to the polishing of the painted surface but also to the substances used in the final layer. The compact and reflective effect observed in some wall paintings, particularly those of the Third Style, was perhaps obtained by adding clay to the pigments of the final layer, or it may even have resulted from the presence in the mortar of spatic calcite. The compression and polishing were performed with a flat-surfaced tool, the liaculum, which applied a slight pressure to the surface. It is clear that this operation required precise calculation of the timing, in order to avoid removing the colours before the plaster had dried properly but while it would still yield slightly to pressure (De Carolis et al. 2012).

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig.1 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 8, depiction of a lemon tree (detail).
Crédits © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2188/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 952k
Titre Fig.2 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 8, cherry tree (detail).
Crédits © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2188/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 828k
Titre Fig. 3 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 12: East wall, figs with snake on the tree trunk.
Crédits © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2188/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 552k
Titre Fig. 4 - Pompeii. House of Orchard, wall painting n. 12: Plum tree (detail).
Crédits © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2188/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 740k
Titre Fig. 5 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 31: view of the central niche with depiction of shrubs and birds in flight (detail).
Crédits © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2188/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 652k
Titre Fig. 6 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32: detail of the sycamore tree in the center.
Crédits © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2188/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 652k
Titre Fig. 7 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32: Viburnum plant (detail).
Crédits © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2188/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 616k
Titre Fig. 8 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32, date palm (detail).
Crédits © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2188/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 748k
Titre Fig. 9 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32, Gallic rose plant (detail).
Crédits © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2188/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 764k
Titre Fig. 10 - Pompeii. House of the Golden Bracelet, wall painting n. 32, oleander and strawberry tree (detail).
Crédits © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2188/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 686k

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Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei, Territorio del Comune di Pompei

© Publications du Centre Jean Bérard, 2017

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