Two centuries before our era, the region of Campania became the favorite place of Roman emperors-from Julius Caesar to Nero- and aristocrats to relax, due to the beauty of the Bay of Naples. Pompeii, Herculaneum and nearby villages represented leisure for some and work for others, like artists.


A hundred pieces, which reveal the luxury and sophistication that this Mediterranean zone reached before the Vesuvius erupted in 79 of the Common Era, arrive to Mexico as part of the exhibition Pompeya y una Villa Romana. Arte y Cultura alrededor de la Bahia de Napoles (Pompeii and the Roman Villa. Art and Culture around the Bay of Naples), to be opened at the National Museum of Anthropology in November 2009.

As part of the cultural exchange program between Mexico and Italy, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) sponsors this international exhibition within its cycle “Great Civilizations”. In return, “Teotihuacan, City of Gods” will be displayed at the Palace of Exhibitions in Rome in 2010.

“Pompeii and the Roman Villa” was presented before at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, United States, with an important affluence of visitors. The exhibition was organized by both museums with the support of Direzione Regionale per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici della Campania and the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

Most objects are part of the Naples National Archaeological Museum collection, while others come from the heaps of Archaeological Museum of Campi Flegrei, Pompeii Excavations Office, as well as Oplontis, in Torre Annunziata. A sculpture of young Hercules exhibited is part of the collection of Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Roman villas at Pompeii and Herculaneum in the early 1st century BC: their quotidian life, as well as gardens, patios and interiors, spaces dedicated to leisure, are recreated in their refinement and disposition by museographic design.  

Sculptures, ornaments, furnishing, fountains, mosaics and personal objects exemplify the superb Roman art, developed to decorate villas and to dress aristocracy.

Excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum go back to the end of 18th century; findings generated enthusiasm during 19th century for ancient styles, affecting art, design and culture in Europe and eventually the United States, being some rooms at the Capitol decorated in a Pompeii fashion.


Covered with Ashes

Campania was a region under Roman domain and an artistic center of great refinement, that attracted Roman elite by the beauty of its bay, the thermal baths and Greek heritage; Hellenistic colonization dates from the 8th century BC.

Pompeya y una Villa Romana. Arte y cultura alrededor de la Bahia de Napoles, is divided in 4 parts: Patrons and Owners, Interiors, Courtyards and Gardens and Taste for the Ancient.

“Patrons and Owners” shows how the region became highly attractive after Emperor Augustus designed Puteoli (today Puzzuoli) the official port from where all Egyptian grains entered Italy, helping the bay to become a resort for vacationing.

Roman aristocrats began building villas in the bay in the 2nd century BC. During that century and the next, ruling families built villas as well, unleashing a construction “fever” that led historian Strabo to express it looked like a “continuous city”. Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Nero had residences there.

“Interiors” remarks the artistic demand this wealth produced. Local and foreign artists satisfied the requirements of art pieces needed to decorate their palaces. Artists had common dwellers of Pompeii and Herculaneum as clients, who emulated the lifestyle of aristocrats and elite.

Interiors of villas and houses of Pompeii were profusely decorated, with walls painted with fresco technique representing landscapes, mythological scenes and still lives. Furnishings included marble tables, brass lampstands, sculptures, silver cups and sculpted portraits of ancestors.

“Courtyards and Gardens”, theme of the 3rd section, were improved with aviaries, fountains and marble or bronze sculptures that poured water into pools and watercourses. Even the most modest houses had a garden and a courtyard, expanded by painting landscapes on walls.

Naples Bay conserved its “Greek style” when Romans arrived, and reverence was shown to that Hellenistic past. This influence is reflected in the last part “Taste for the Ancient”. Vestiges found at Pompeii and Herculean villas reveal that knowledge of Greek culture was a sign of refinement and a status symbol.

Pompeya y una Villa Romana. Arte y cultura alrededor de la Bahia de Napoles, will be open at the Temporary Exhibitions Hall of the National Museum of Anthropology from 9:00 to 17:00 hours, Tuesday to Sunday. The admission fee is $51 MXP. Children under 13, students and teachers with valid ID, senior citizens and the physically challenged do not pay. On Sundays, Mexicans and residents with their migration document do not pay. Visit www.inah.gob.mx/pompeya