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The Splendor of Roman Wall Painting

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The Splendor of Roman Wall Painting
By Umberto Pappalardo. Photographs by Luciano Romano. (Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum / Getty Research Institute: 2008. Pg. 240. 150 Color Illustrations.) ISBN: 978-0-89236-958-4

Reviewed by Herbert White - August 3, 2009

Roman houses and villas, especially those belonging to the wealthy, were noted for their elaborate wall paintings. Many of these paintings have survived the test of time and can still be viewed today throughout Italy. However, you don't have to travel to Italy to view these masterpieces. In The Splendor of Roman Wall Painting, Umberto Pappalardo takes readers on a virtual tour of these remarkable works. This book, which features 150 color illustrations of these wall paintings, provides a historical overview of the paintings, their designs, and how they were created. Pappalardo also provides keen insights on why and how they survived to the present day, the steps being taken to ensure that they will survive on into the future, as well as the history and location of the homes and buildings in which they reside.

Some of the many locations featured in this book include the Domus Aurea, the House of the Griffins, and the House of Livia on the Palatine Hill in Rome, the Villa Imperiale, The House of the Orchard, the House of Marcus Fabius Rufus, and the House of the Faun in Pompeii, The House of the Skeleton, the Collegium of the Augustales, and the Samnite House in Herculaneum, the Villa of Poppea in Oplontis, and the Villa of Agrippa Postumus in Boscotrecase. In all, twenty-eight villas, and their accompanying artwork are featured in this book.

The narrative text in this book was written by Pappalardo, the director of excavations at Herculaneum and a professor of geoarchaeology. His graceful and informative narrative, combined with the exquisite illustrations and photographs in this book, serve to introduce readers to this remarkable aspect of Roman history and culture, and the role that these paintings played in everyday life and the cultural and artistic values of the Romans.

The Splendor of Roman Wall Painting is so detailed and engrossing that I was amazed to discover that it is actually an abridgement of an earlier work, Domus: Wall Painting in the Roman House. Had I not stumbled across this piece of information, I would never have guessed that this was an abridgement of any source. Let it suffice to say, that The Splendor of Roman Wall Painting stands on its own and that it would make an outstanding addition to any public or private library. It is also essential reading for anyone with an interest in ancient architecture, art history, or Roman history or culture.

Related Reviews:

Houses and Monuments of Pompeii, By Roberto Cassanelli, Pier Luigi Ciapparelli, Enrico Colle, and Massimiliano David.
A reproduction of Le case i monumenti di Pompeii by Fausto and Felice Niccolini, with over 270 color illustrations and commentary.

Ancient Rome: Art, Architecture and History, By Ada Gabucci.
This book contains 200 color illustrations covering all aspects of Ancient Roman art, architecture, and history. In addition, the text offers a general overview of the history of Ancient Rome.

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