The aim of the project is to put forth an analysis of the Visual Fortune of Pompeii, or rather, it is the reconstruction of the cultural identity of this archaeological site and of its individual finds. The cultural identity of Pompeii and its monuments is a result of a collection of various authors' perceptions at different moments in history.
In order to make an analysis, it is necessary to examine each Iconographic Source individually, so that it is possible to visualize, compare and contrast graphic documents with similar or identical subjects. In doing so, one can obtain a panorama of the graphic sources as a whole.
In this page it is possible to consult the Iconographic Sources of the Archive, through some predefined thematic paths: the paths make up a sort of guide to the Archive, giving the opportunity to examine its contents.
Based on the taxonomy of the Thesaurus of Subjects, the graphic documents have been classified according to themes that portray three main categories: Portrayal Type, Archaeological Object and Ornamental Subject. The thematic paths follow this breakdown of categories.
Paths related to portrayal type
The first category in which the graphic documents have been classified is the "Views": the views are mostly engravings and prints done by painters, illustrators and engravers. Archaeologists and architects whose work has been executed from life or have carried out free-hand drawings are also included in this category.
These views can be subdivided: to begin, there is the category of views that portrays the monuments at the moment in which they were reproduced, and others that are fantastical representations, in which the archaeological ruins often appear to be reconstructed or portrayed as if the author were imagining them to be during Ancient Roman times.
Among the representations in the first sub-category, there are those which include depictions of people: the views of excavators convey a romantic quality given by the artists who loved to capture the moment when the ruins were brought to light. The authors of these types of portrayals often depicted themselves and their colleagues by including a designer, in the drawing, as if to emphasize the noble documentary purpose of their works. Among the various characters included in the views, the Bourbon guards who oversee the ruins, especially stand out. The presence of these guards symbolised the fact that the site was of Royal property and that it was subject to certain restrictions, including the absolute prohibition of taking measurements or depicting it without proper authorisation. Among the subjects depicted in the views, there are often animals, usually being flocks of sheep that grazed near the ruins.
On the other hand, the fantastical representations are full of characters dressed in Ancient Roman garb, a technique often used to indicate the chronological setting.
All of the views have the presence of landscapes that enhance the Pompeian ruins by placing them in the natural setting of the Vesuvian countryside. Most often Mount Vesuvius itself is depicted, crowned by a cloudy sky or by the typical plume of smoke, alluding to the disaster of '79.
A completely different way of depicting the site is through technical drawings. These are carried out by such specialists as architects, archaeologists who used specific techniques, ranging from simple drawings to watercolours to various types of engravings. The portrayed subjects range from the entire archaeological site represented in sections through plans, to individual buildings and their interiors, to the details of the architectural decorations. This category also contains various types of ruins represented through detailed plans, sections and prospectuses. These prospectuses often portray mosaics and paintings, accurately measured and reproduced. In most cases these types of portrayals include an indication of measurement or a metric scale.
Paths related to the archaeological classification
It is interesting to note that the majority of the graphic documents on Pompeii are of an architectural nature. The appreciation of Pompeii's architecture is determined by the fact that this fascinating site is, in reality, an entire city that has re-emerged from Vesuvius' ashes.
An initial classification of the architectural subjects makes a distinction between the functions of public and private buildings.
Public buildings can further be divided into various categories. These are divided into administrative buildings such as the Basilica and the Curia; buildings of worship that include temples, chapels, and sanctuaries; entertainment buildings: the amphitheatre, the theatre and the odeion; fortification structures such as city walls, towers, and city gates, water systems that include public fountains, cisterns and the castellum aquae, not to mention the thermal baths, where people would gather regularly.
The category of private buildings includes various types of urban houses, ranging from the smallest apartments to the Samnitic houses with atriums, to rich homes with atriums and peristyles, and beautiful suburban villas, which were located outside the city walls.
Among the buildings of Pompeii, there were also many commercial buildings, some of which were public like the Macellum, and some others private such as taverns, bakeries and laundry shops.
Not to forget are the funeral grounds/cemeteries, whose wonderful monumental tombs adorn Pompeii's necropolis.
The paintings that grace the buildings of Pompeii have always aroused admiration and amazement since there is such little pictorial evidence from the past still existing today. The wall decorations of Pompeii are decisively exceptional due to their good quality, to the variety of subject and style which have provided a wide range of study material, and to their great quantity.
Archaeologists and engineers have depicted a notable quantity of Pompeian paintings in great detail. Thanks to these reproductions, today we are able to admire the magnificence of some decorations that have deteriorated over time as well as understand the position of other decorations that have been detached from the walls after their discovery.
On the whole, the paintings can be separated into two categories, those decorating the public buildings and those found on the walls of private homes. When considering the type of painting, we can easily compare those classified as I, II, III, IV stile to those considered as popular art which was more representative of daily life and decorated larari, streets and taverns.
The floors of Pompeian buildings, the thresholds of homes, the fountains and the nymfaeums, the arcs and some of the walls are embellished by mosaics which were made using a variety of techniques. The XVIII and XIX century designers reproduced these in graphic documents by way of free hand drawings and detailed prospectuses.
A great number of geometric mosaics, often done in black and white or in the natural brown hues in opus tessellatum are among the Pompeian mosaics. The more rare and precious illustrated mosaics were often done in polychromy with tiny tesseras, extremely minute in opus vermiculatum and using sought-after materials such as glass and precious and semiprecious stones (gems). The themes and techniques used in making the mosaics derive from the Hellenistic tradition, as we know through extraordinary examples such as the great so-called "Alexander the Great Mosaic" which is exhibited in the National Museum of Naples.
The richness of Pompeii and the elegance of its inhabitants are portrayed by the numerous sculptures that have been discovered. Among the full-relief sculptures we can admire busts, statues, and herma constructed from various materials such as bronze, marble, and common stone. This category also includes reliefs and the architectural decorations in stone and terracotta, as well as furniture and furnishings.
The sculptures are documented in different ways in the graphic productions of the XVIII and XIX centuries: we can often perceive them in their original contexts, while in other moments we can see them in technical designs and a set of plates that refer to the decoration of a single building.
The numerous inscriptions that one can come across throughout the streets of Pompeii have caught the attention of draftsmen, archaeologists and architects. These can be found on sepulchres, on monuments and on walls of buildings. According to their various functions, we can make clear distinctions between the different inscriptions. There are public works inscriptions, which give testimony to the construction or the restoration of buildings and monuments, legal inscriptions, honorary inscriptions which are dedications of a statue or a monument, wall inscriptions of various types, usually painted or engraved, sacred inscriptions and sepulchral inscriptions, which are found on tombs commemorating the dead. The inscriptions were mostly inscribed in stone, but were sometimes produced in mosaics or painted on the outside walls of buildings, similar to graffiti in modern day cities.
Paths related to the classification of ornamental subjects
Among the numerous ruins discovered in Pompeii, real works of art which are richly decorated with geometric and natural patterns or with elaborately illustrated scenes can hardly go unnoticed. The portrayed subjects are found in paintings, sculptures and mosaics and derive from the rich Hellenistic culture, which is wonderfully fused with the Roman style.
The gathered graphic documentation in the Archive demonstrates the vast attention that draftsmen, archaeologists and architects paid to the artwork that decorated the ruins of Pompeii, which provide a rich source of research material used for the comprehension of the Roman culture, as well as a source of inspiration for the artists of the time.
As an example of paths, one can chose to view the ruins decorated with illustrated battle, gladiatorial, hunting, sacrificial and theatrical scenes. Furthermore, by means of Personalized Paths, it is possible to research numerous subjects, such as the iconography related to specific divinities or mythological figures, the depiction of animals or of architectural subjects, or the portrayal of musical instruments.