maritime landscape fresco from pompeii

Maritime Landscape Fresco, Villa San Marco, room 52, west wall, middle zone, main picture, Stabiae 1st century CE, MANN 9480, National Archaeological Museum of Naples Image © Photographic Archive, National Archaeological Museum of Naples

From a Roman House to a Bourbon Palace: Finding Ancient Rome on the Bay of Naples

Exhibition Lecture

Carol Mattusch

George Mason University

This lecture will take place online; a Zoom link will be provided via email to registered participants.

Registration is required at THIS LINK.

Fascination with the ancient Romans on the Bay of Naples began with the Spanish Bourbon excavations at Herculaneum (1738) and Pompeii (1748). Five of the eight volumes of the magisterial Bourbon publication - Delle antichità di Ercolano – were about the paintings that were being removed from the walls of ancient houses and displayed in the Royal Museum. Thomas Martyn (1735-1825) and John Lettice (1737-1832), pirated 50 engravings of the paintings from the Antichità for a  small-scale version, The Antiquities of Herculaneum, 1773, fanning the growing attraction for the Bourbon discoveries. Visitors on the Grand Tour were lured to Naples by the sites, the emerging images of ancient lives, the Museum, the continuing eruptions of Mt. Vesuvius, and the vibrant cultural life of Naples. Artists and writers featured Pompeii in their works: William Gell illustrated Pompeii as if it were coming back to life; Bulwer-Lytton imagined the city’s violent destruction. And lighthearted “Pompeiian” designs were painted on the walls and ceilings of public buildings and private homes from Athens, Greece, to Saratoga Springs, New York.   

Carol C. Mattusch is the Mathy Professor of Art History emerita at George Mason University and specializes in the rediscovery of the classical world in the 18th century, and in Greek and Roman bronzes. Her books include Enduring Bronze, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2014; J. J. Winckelmann, Letter and Report on the Discoveries at Herculaneum, introd, trans, and commentary, 2011 The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum: Life and Afterlife of  a Sculpture Collection, Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005; and Classical Bronzes: The Art and Craft of Greek and Roman Statuary, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996. She has won the College Art Association’s Charles Rufus Morey Book Award, and the Archaeological Institute of America’s James R. Wiseman Book Award. Mattusch curated Pompeii and the Roman Villa (National Gallery of Art, 2008); she was an advisor to Buried by Vesuvius: The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum (Getty, 2019), and Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World (Getty and Palazzo Strozzi, 2015). Mattusch chairs the Committee on International Bronze Congresses, and she is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a corresponding member of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut.

This lecture is given in conjunction with ISAW's exhibition Pompeii in Color: The Life of Roman Painting. The exhibition is made possible by generous support from The Achelis and Bodman Foundation, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Leon Levy Foundation. Additional funding provided by Victoria Newhouse.

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