‘Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis’ at the Pompeii Antiquarium

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Roman lifestyle, enjoyed in sumptuous and elegant villas, is at the center of the exhibition called Treasures under the lapilli – Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from Pompeii’s Insula Occidentalis, held at the Pompeii Antiquarium, between September 11 and May 31, 2018.

'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
The golden bracelet after which the house was named represents one of the most valuable and beautiful 
artworks found in Pompeii [Credit: Pompeii Antiquarium]

The exhibit offers the chance to admire rich furnishings and parietal paintings of some of the most well-known urban villas of the Insula Occidentalis at the archaeological site, including the House of the Golden Bracelet (VI,17,412), which has been closed to the public for decades and is currently under restoration.

The villas in the Insula Occidentalis are built on four panoramic terraces sloping towards the sea and were sumptuously decorated with frescoes and mosaics; the paintings on the walls made reference to literary works or depicted gardens that opened on green areas offering a kind of ideal continuity between indoor and outdoor space. Also the floor mosaics were made with colored marble, brought from all corners of the Roman Empire, and the gardens were enriched by beautiful water features.

The most well-known villa is the House of the Golden Bracelet, which owes its name to the precious metal bracelet, weighing 610 grams, found on the wrist of one of the three petrified bodies of the people, two adults and a child, who lived in the house and sought refuge in an under-stair cupboard during the eruption that took place in 79 AD.

The bracelet, on show in this exhibition, features two snakes’ heads
holding a gold disk with the bust of the goddess Selene, who is wearing a
half moon-shaped tiara and is surrounded by 7 stars. Another adult
trying to escape had a wood and bronze box, containing 40 gold coins and
175 silver coins, which is also part of the exhibition.

'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium
'Treasures under the lapilli. Furnishings, frescoes and jewels from the Insula Occidentalis' at the Pompeii Antiquarium

The house had a large triclinium with beautiful frescoes, including one representing the nuptials of Alexander and Rossane and Ariadne and Dionysus in Naxos; during the summer, banquets were held on the lower floor in a triclinium that opened onto a garden with a monumental nymphaeum, decorated with colored glass paste mosaics, shells and lava foam.

Instead, the wall with frescoes depicting garden scenes, also from the House of the Golden Bracelet in Pompeii, which was on display until the past July 24 at the Grand Palais in Paris, as part of the “Jardin” exhibition, is hosted at the Antiquarium of Boscoreale, due to space limitations. Also the petrified bodies of the three inhabitants of the House of the Golden Bracelet are on show.

In the Insula Occidentalis, the project “Grande Progetto Pompeii” focuses on securing the area, which in addition to the House of the Golden Bracelet, also includes the Library House (VI,17,41), the House of Fabio Rufo (VII, 16,20-22) and the House of Castricio (VII,16,16).

One of the objectives of the project, is to create paths that will allow tourists to visit these buildings that have been closed to the public for so long. All damaged cement structures will be demolished and new roofs will be built; the escarpment below the House, which risks collapsing, will be secured.

Additionally, a garden recreating what would have been the old outdoor space, will be created in the south-west area of the House of Fabio Rufo. Gathering and resting areas for tourists are also part of the plan.

Source: AGI [September 16, 2017]

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