The Roman wall painting (after the main locality and Roman Pompeian wall painting) is in various Wandmalstile that the Roman Empire from the 3rd century. BC were used until late antiquity, divided. Never before and not again after in human history have murals been so widespread. They can be found in the homes of the rich, but also in small residential buildings in the deepest province, from Britain to Egypt, from Pannonia (Hungary) to Morocco.
The vast body of Roman painting we now have only a very few pockets of survivals, with many documented types not surviving at all, or doing so only from the very end of the period. The best known and most important pocket is the wall paintings from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other sites nearby, which show how residents of a wealthy seaside resort decorated their walls in the century or so before the fatal eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. A succession of dated styles have been defined and analysed by modern art historians beginning with August Mau, showing increasing elaboration and sophistication.
Starting in the 3rd century CE and finishing by about 400 we have a large body of paintings from the Catacombs of Rome, by no means all Christian, showing the later continuation of the domestic decorative tradition in a version adapted – probably not greatly adapted – for use in burial chambers, in what was probably a rather humbler social milieu than the largest houses in Pompeii. Much of Nero’s palace in Rome, the Domus Aurea, survived as grottos and gives us examples which we can be sure represent the very finest quality of wall-painting in its style, and which may well have represented significant innovation in style. There are a number of other parts of painted rooms surviving from Rome and elsewhere, which somewhat help to fill in the gaps of our knowledge of wall-painting. From Roman Egypt there are a large number of what are known as Fayum mummy portraits, bust portraits on wood added to the outside of mummies by a Romanized middle class; despite their very distinct local character they are probably broadly representative of Roman style in painted portraits, which are otherwise entirely lost.
Nothing remains of the Greek paintings imported to Rome during the 4th and 5th centuries, or of the painting on wood done in Italy during that period. In sum, the range of samples is confined to only about 200 years out of the about 900 years of Roman history, and of provincial and decorative painting. Most of this wall painting was done using the secco (“dry”) method, but some fresco paintings also existed in Roman times. There is evidence from mosaics and a few inscriptions that some Roman paintings were adaptations or copies of earlier Greek works. However, adding to the confusion is the fact that inscriptions may be recording the names of immigrant Greek artists from Roman times, not from Ancient Greek originals that were copied. The Romans entirely lacked a tradition of figurative vase-painting comparable to that of the Ancient Greeks, which the Etruscans had emulated.
The painting in the Vesuvius cities
The eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD caused an ash shower over the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which spilled the paintings there. Protected until their exposure in modern times, these works were preserved comparatively well and therefore serve as the starting point for most studies on Roman wall painting.
Pompeii was rediscovered by Domenico Fontana at the end of the 16th century. Fontana dug a tunnel into the forum, but did not realize that he had come across the remains of Pompeii. At the beginning of the 18th century, the excavations were continued by Prince d’Elboeuf. He too worked arbitrarily and dug, without having any idea what ancient location he was in. It wasn’t until Charles III., King of Naples and Sicily, had targeted excavations carried out. Work began in Herculaneum in 1735, and excavations took place in Pompeii 10 years later. By Joseph and Caroline Bonaparte (Napoleon’s siblings), who successively ascended the throne of Naples and promoted the excavations, these experienced a new upswing. In the 19th century, the Italian king Viktor Emanuel II made Giuseppe Fiorelli the excavation leader. This initiated systematic excavations for the first time: the rubble was removed, the houses were numbered and divided into regions (districts) and insulae (blocks of flats).
The Pompeian Styles are four periods which are distinguished in ancient Roman mural painting. They were originally delineated and described by the German archaeologist August Mau, 1840–1909, from the excavation of wall paintings at Pompeii, which is one of the largest group of surviving examples of Roman frescoes.
The wall painting styles have allowed art historians to delineate the various phases of interior decoration in the centuries leading up to the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, which both destroyed the city and preserved the paintings, and between stylistic shifts in Roman art. In the succession of styles, there is a reiteration of stylistic themes. The paintings also tell a great deal about the prosperity of the area and specific tastes during the times.
There are four main styles of Roman wall painting that have been found: Incrustation, architectural, ornamental, and intricate. Each style is unique, but each style following the first, contains aspects of each style previous to it. Any original paintings were created before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The first two styles (incrustation and architectural) were a part of the Republican period (related to Hellenistic Greek wall painting) and the last two styles (ornamental and intricate) were a part of the Imperial period.
The main purpose of these frescoes was to reduce the claustrophobic interiors of Roman rooms, which were windowless and dark. The paintings, full of color and life, brightened up the interior and made the room feel more spacious.
Most paintings were created with a mixture of fresco – and tempera or encaustic made. Plaster was applied to the walls in several layers, whereby the number of layers could vary. In general, earlier paintings and those in richer houses show more layers than later ones and those in less rich residential buildings. Starting from the top, the layers of plaster and then the paintings were applied to the wall and finally finished at the bottom. More elaborate paintings were also polished.
Despite large variations in detail, the walls are constructed according to the same scheme. There is always a base zone, a middle zone and an upper zone. The base zone is usually rather simple, it can be single-colored, but can also carry imitations of marble or simple paintings of plants. Geometric patterns are also very popular. In the middle zone, however, the main emphasis of the painting unfolds. Depending on the style, you will find elaborate architectures or simple fields, with the center of the wall usually being particularly heavy and decorated with a painting. Field paintings, which were very common especially from the 3rd (ornamental) style, consist of an alternation of broad, monochrome and narrow fields, often richly decorated with plants, unreal architecture or other patterns. Light architectures like to be found in the upper zone. The upper zone is missing from many simple murals in the provinces.
Ceiling paintings that are much less well preserved than those of the walls follow two basic types. There are simple patterns, especially circles or cassettes, which are repeated indefinitely or the ceiling is composed towards a center, often with a figure.
A few findings show that a uniform composition of floor design, wall and ceiling can also be technically proven and combined with the written tradition.
First Style: Incrustation
The First style, also referred to as structural, incrustation or masonry style, was most popular from 200 BC until 80 BC. It is characterized by the simulation of marble (marble veneering). The marble-like look was acquired by the use of stucco moldings, which caused portions of the wall to appear raised.. Other simulated elements (e.g. suspended alabaster discs in vertical lines, ‘wooden’ beams in yellow and ‘pillars’ and ‘cornices’ in white), and the use of vivid color, were considered signs of wealth. Those who were not as wealthy mainly used variations of the colors yellow, purple, and pink.
This style was a replica of that found in the Ptolemaic palaces of the near east, where the walls were inset with real stones and marbles, and also reflects the spread of Hellenistic culture as Rome interacted and conquered other Greek and Hellenistic states in this period. Mural reproductions of Greek paintings are also found. This style divided the wall into various, multi-colored patterns that took the place of extremely expensive cut stone. The First Style was also used with other styles for decorating the lower sections of walls that were not seen as much as the higher levels.
Examples include the wall painting in the Samnite House in Herculaneum (late 2nd century BC), or at the House of Faun and the House of Sallust in Pompeii.
Second Style: Architectural
The Second style, architectural style, or ‘illusionism’ dominated the 1st century BC, where walls were decorated with architectural features and trompe l’oeil (trick of the eye) compositions. Early on, elements of this style are reminiscent of the First Style, but this slowly starts to be substituted element by element. This technique consists of highlighting elements to pass them off as three-dimensional realities – columns for example, dividing the wall-space into zones – and was a method widely used by the Romans.
The second style retained the usage of marble blocks. The blocks were typically lined along the base of the wall and the actual picture was created on flat plaster. However, many paintings from this style involved illusions of imaginary scenes. Painters wanted to give off the illusion that the viewer was looking through a window at the scenery depicted. They also added objects that are commonly seen in real life such as vases and shelves along with items that appeared to be sticking out of the wall. This style was intended for viewers to feel as though the actions in the painting were taking place around them.
It is characterized by use of relative perspective (not precise linear perspective because this style involves mathematical concepts and scientific proportions like that of the Renaissance) to create trompe l’oeil in wall paintings. The picture plane was pushed farther back into the wall by painted architectonic features such as Ionic columns or stage platforms. These wall paintings counteracted the claustrophobic nature of the small, windowless rooms of Roman houses.
Images and landscapes began to be introduced to the first style around 90 BC, and gained ground from 70 BC onwards, along with illusionistic and architectonic motives. Decoration had to give the greatest possible impression of depth. Imitations of images appeared, at first in the higher section, then (after 50 BC) in the background of landscapes which provided a stage for mythological stories, theatrical masks, or decorations.
During the reign of Augustus, the style evolved. False architectural elements opened up wide expanses with which to paint artistic compositions. A structure inspired by stage sets developed, whereby one large central tableau is flanked by two smaller ones. In this style, the illusionistic tendency continued, with a ‘breaking up’ of walls with painted architectural elements or scenes. The landscape elements eventually took over to cover the entire wall, with no framing device, so it looked to the viewer as if he or she was merely looking out of a room onto a real scene. Basically, the more developed Second Style was the antithesis of the First Style. Instead of confining and strengthening the walls, the goal was to break down the wall to show scenes of nature and the outside world. Much of the depth of the mature Second Style comes from the use of aerial (atmospheric) perspective that blurred the appearance of objects further away. Thus, the foreground is rather precise while the background is somewhat indistinctly purple, blue, and gray.
One of the most recognized and unique pieces representing the Second Style is the Dionysiac mystery frieze in the Villa of the Mysteries. This work depicts the Dionysian Cult that was made up of mostly women. In the scene, however, one boy is depicted.
Fashionable particularly from the 40s BC onwards, it began to wane in the final decades BC.
An example is the architectural painting at the Villa Boscoreale at Boscoreale (c. 40 BC).
Third Style: Ornamental
The Third style, or ornate style, was popular around 20–10 BC as a reaction to the austerity of the previous period. It leaves room for more figurative and colorful decoration, with an overall more ornamental feeling, and often presents great finesse in execution. This style is typically noted as simplistically elegant.
Its main characteristic was a departure from illusionistic devices, although these (along with figural representation) later crept back into this style. It obeyed strict rules of symmetry dictated by the central element, dividing the wall into 3 horizontal and 3 to 5 vertical zones. The vertical zones would be divided up by geometric motifs or bases, or slender columns of foliage hung around candelabra. In this particular style, more wall space is left plainly colored, with no design. When designs were present, they tended to be small, plain pictures or scenes such as a candelabra or fluted appendages. Delicate motifs of birds or semi-fantastical animals appeared in the background. Plants and characteristically Egyptian animals were often introduced, part of the Egyptomania in Roman art after Augustus’ defeat of Cleopatra and annexation of Egypt in 30 BC.
These paintings were decorated with delicate linear fantasies, predominantly monochromatic, that replaced the three-dimensional worlds of the Second Style. An example is the Villa of Livia in Prima Porta outside of Rome (c. 30–20 BC). Also included in this style are paintings similar to the one found in Cubiculum 15 of the Villa of Agrippa Postumus in Boscotrecase (c. 10 BC). These involve a delicate architectural frame over a blank, monochromatic background with only a small scene located in the middle, like a tiny floating landscape. Black, red, and yellow continued to be used throughout this period, but the use of green and blue became more prominent than in previous styles.
It was found in Rome until 40 AD and in the Pompeii area until 60 AD.
Fourth Style: Intricate
Characterized as a Baroque reaction to the Third Style’s mannerism, the Fourth Style in Roman wall painting (c. 60–79 AD) is generally less ornamented than its predecessor. The style was, however, much more complex. It revives large-scale narrative painting and panoramic vistas while retaining the architectural details of the Second and First Styles. In the Julio-Claudian phase (c. 20–54 AD), a textile-like quality dominates and tendrils seem to connect all the elements on the wall. The colors warm up once again, and they are used to advantage in the depiction of scenes drawn from mythology, landscapes, and other images.
Intricate paintings appeared busier and used the wall in its entirety to be complete. The overall feeling of the walls typically formed a mosaic of framed pictures. The lower zones of these walls tended to be composed of the First Style. Panels were also used with floral designs on the walls. A prime example of the Fourth Style is the Ixion Room in the House of the Vettii in Pompeii. One of the largest contributions seen in the Fourth Style is the advancement of still life with intense space and light. Shading was very important in the Roman still life. This style was never truly seen again until 17th and 18th centuries with the Dutch and English decoration.
All four styles of wall painting were developed prior to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Although many examples of Roman wall painting were able to be preserved from the eruption, no new styles of wall painting developed after the incident. People continue to decorate their homes with these paintings, but there were never any new styles that developed, instead, a combination of the four styles was used among painters. Improvements were made to the techniques such as a sheet of lead being added to the base of the wall in order to prevent moisture from destroying the art and using a marble powder to produce a shinier surface.
The mural painting after AD 79 is understandably less well known than that from the well-preserved cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The fourth style is still attested after the fall of Pompeii and obviously did not end with the fall of the city. The style is attested to around 100 AD. In the following periods, style levels can also be distinguished here. However, there was no really new 5th style. The murals in the period that followed repeated elements of the 4th styles. There are few radical innovations.
Hadrian wall painting
From this period (approx. 117 to 140 AD) there are different types of decoration. During this period, complex designs were used in the second style (e.g. Rome, Villa der Numisia Procula, Villa Negroni). There is the representation of solid architectures, some of which have a large central image. Other walls of the Hadrian period are still in the tradition of the 4th style. Finally, there are numerous walls (e.g. in the Hadrian’s Villa), the decoration of which has been reduced to simple areas. Geometric shapes are predominant here.
Antonine wall painting
Typical for this period (approx. 140 to 180 AD) are walls in the tradition of the 3rd style with pillars in front and a special preference for yellow walls with views in red (e.g. the Casa del Soffitto Dipinto) in Ostia. In addition, monochrome decorations were very popular, the main decoration of which often consists of aedicules. After all, there are simple field decorations without any architectures. In general there is a striving for harmony in the wall painting, which is in contrast to the following style period. The figurative middle pictures lose more and more importance from this time and in the following time they become smaller and smaller and disappear completely.
Spätantoninisch-Severan wall painting
This style period (approx. 180 to 240 AD) is in many ways a break from the previous styles. Almost everywhere there is an effort to create something new.
There is still a wide range of wall decorations. Architectural walls mostly appear as simplified versions of the 4th style, whereby the architectures appear relatively firm and less playful than in the 4th style. Protruding pillars are very popular, each appearing as a double pillar. Floating or standing figures appear in the fields between them. From this time on, everyday figures were used more and more in wall painting. Rows of servant figures replaced mythological scenes. The representation of one’s own prosperity seemed more important than that for the display of Greek education.
Field walls of this style period are particularly notable for their irregularity. While earlier field decorations were more concerned with symmetry, now unevenly sized fields were often put together. Figures in fields that were previously always within these now often break through the boundary lines. A special innovation of this style period are walls in the red-green line system. The decoration of the wall is reduced to a network of lines. Figures are sparse and mostly painted very impressionistically. These decorations are primarily known from the Roman catacombs, but are not only attested in them (see e.g. The Villa Piccola under S. Sebastiano in Rome)
Late 3rd and 4th century
There were still isolated architectural walls during this period, but they lost much of their plasticity. Often it was just a matter of depicting columns that divided the walls. Field decorations continued to be relatively popular, with marble decorations often mimicking walls. Decorations in the red-green line system were used up to the 4th century and are noticeable due to fewer and fewer ornaments. Finally, there were decorations in which small patterns were repeated endlessly, creating an effect that resembles our wallpaper of today.
From the beginning of the Constantine period there are a few paintings that stand out for their high plasticity and efforts for spatial depth. They have a clearly classicist character, without it being possible to identify a particular style as an example. Reddish-brown shades are also typical. The best-known example is a ceiling of an imperial building in Trier, richly painted with erotic figures. In the post-Constantine period, on the other hand, strongly impressionistic paintings dominate, again losing space.
There are no other surviving examples of painted houses from the period after the beginning of the 5th century AD, although these are attested literarily. In the following period, the wall painting shifted to the decoration of churches etc.
Provincial Roman wall painting
The development of Roman wall painting in the provinces is more difficult to follow than in Italy because there are few very well preserved remains of wall paintings and the state of research on individual provinces is still very different. While the Roman murals e.g. For example, for Germany, Switzerland or Great Britain, there are no comprehensive studies for other provinces (e.g. North Africa), although it can be assumed with certainty that murals had the same status everywhere.
The murals from France in particular are well prepared and there is a summary monograph by Alix Barbet. Perhaps not coincidentally originate the oldest fragments that can be assigned to the first style, from Ile Sainte-Marguerite, an island that is known by the Fund places nearest to the Italian border. The few surviving fragments are painted stucco works that show imitations of marble, but also a frieze with dolphins. From Glanum, also in the south of France, various comparatively well-preserved examples of the 2nd style come. A painting from the house of Sulla (maison de Sulla) shows yellow fields, orthostats and small figures that have a cornice. Painted pilasters stand in front of this wall. Very similar wall decorations come from the house of the two alcoves (maison aux deux Alcôves). Examples of the second style are also known from other places, such as Ensérune and Nimes. All these places are in the south of France. Numerous examples of the 3rd style have been preserved and published. They come from almost all parts of the country. In Frejusan atrium house was found, the entire decoration program of which can be reconstructed relatively well. Most rooms are furnished in the 3rd style. The walls are rather simple with red fields and green or black dividers. The upper zones are yellow. The base zones are dark red or black. From the mid-first century, there are also numerous paintings that are committed to the fourth style. In addition, there are also many paintings in the Gallic provinces that belong to the late 3rd style.
The development in France was therefore in a different direction than in Italy. From Viennecomes from a black-ground wall decoration with candelabras. The candelabras bear erotes and birds, the painting shows elements of the 3rd style, but overall appears overloaded and thus reminds of the 4th style. There are numerous murals with filigree decorative ribbons, as are typical of the 4th style. On the other hand, architectural walls, as are otherwise attested in the 4th style, are not well attested.
Various types of wall decorations have been preserved from the 2nd century. There are still numerous examples of candelabra walls. Architectures are now more frequently attested. An innovation are numerous paintings on a light background. Comparatively few paintings can be dated to the 3rd and 4th centuries. Different walls with large figures are remarkable. Four panels with figures representing athletes come from a thermal spa in Saint-Romain-en-Gal. Some examples of paintings with elaborate architectures reminiscent of the second style also come from the Severan period.
Roman wall painting in the northwestern provinces
The wall painting of this area (Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium) is well worked up. For some cities (Cologne, Xanten) and regions (Switzerland, northern Upper Germany,) there are now monographs in which all finds of wall paintings have been treated. The material base is therefore wide, even if there are comparatively few really well preserved wall paintings. Many reconstructions of decorations are therefore uncertain.
The scanty oldest remains of wall paintings in this area belong to the 3rd style and are partly of high quality and very similar to Italian models. Apparently were also painters in the newly conquered territories and established his own painting workshops with the Roman troops. In the period that followed, however, these workshops broke away from the models in Italy. The murals in this area developed their own repertoire. Candelabra walls were particularly popular in the period that followed, field walls are also found just as frequently, while architectures are nowhere near as common as in Italy. The 4th style is therefore also present in these provinces, but often only recognizable by the typical filigree ornamental ribbons (e.g. Augsburg, Thermen Windisch AG (Switzerland) Vidy (Switzerland)), Rübenach (district of Koblenz), which were not as widespread as in Italy. The fourth style was continued in the Hadrian and subsequent period, but the walls are simpler. There are not so many playful ornaments anymore. Field decorations are still predominant, but there are also candelabra walls. Architectures are very rarely attested. At the end of the 2nd century and with the beginning of the 3rd century, the candelabra walls disappeared. Field decorations were now predominant, on the one hand there are very colorful examples, but on the other hand more simply designed walls, the decoration of which was painted in red lines on a white background (e.g. villa in Schwangau, Ostallgäu). Throughout the 2nd century, decorations in a wallpaper style can also be found.
The area became impoverished due to the constant invasions of Germanic tribes to these provinces from the second half of the 3rd century. Only a few examples of wall paintings date from then.
Thanks to a good level of research, the paintings in this country are well known. The finds seem to prove that this province initially followed strong Italian models. At Nemesvamos-Balacapuszta a Roman villa was found, whose magnificent paintings in the 4th style hardly match any examples from Pompeii. In the so-called black-purple room, there are floating figures in fields that are framed by architectural perspectives. Centaurs and fully plastic candelabras appear on the architectures in the side panels. Paintings found in Budapest are stylistically reminiscent of those from the Parthian art area and may indicate soldiers from this area. The murals from the governor’s palace there, which date to the fourth century, are typical of their time with their marble imitations.
Roman wall painting in the province of Britannia
The painting of this province is also well worked up. In contrast to the other northwestern provinces, Britannia largely followed developments in Italy. This may be surprising at first, but the province was conquered relatively late. The painter’s workshops founded here never developed their own style to the extent that z. B. happened in Germania. So there is good evidence from the second century for architectural walls and also for those in red and yellow color design.
Roman wall painting in the east of the kingdom
The development of wall painting as a whole is relatively difficult to follow in the east of the empire and has not yet been worked up. Numerous examples were found in the hillside houses in Ephesus. They represent the largest corpus of wall paintings from the east of the empire to date. There are walls that are painted in the 4th style and red and yellow walls of the Antonine period, which show a similar style as in Italy. The majority of the paintings found there date to the third century AD and show field walls on a light background.
The emergency digs at Zeugmabrought forth numerous new finds of wall paintings dating from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. There were mainly field decorations on a light background with large, individual figures, each occupying a field. The decoration schemes are comparable to those of Ephesus. The figures often have Greek inscriptions, as was more typical in the Hellenistic world. A wall shows life-sized servant figures on a red background between simple archetectures. It dates from around 200 AD and is comparable to a wall in Rome (in the Domus Praeconum) that is roughly the same time. Decorations of the 1st style come from Athens and Delos. OutPetra and the Masada have examples of the 2nd style. In Sabratha there are examples of elaborate paintings, probably of the Hadrian period, based on the 2nd style.
Only the murals from Tunisia have been systematically processed so far. Here too there are numerous paintings that can be linked to the styles in Italy. The oldest paintings can be assigned to the 3rd style and come from Carthage. Other paintings in Carthage show ornamental ribbons as they are known from the fourth style. In the Maison de la Ronde there were other examples that can clearly be assigned to the 4th style. These are the remains of painted candelabras. The majority of the paintings from Tunisia date to the second century AD
Generally one has the impression that at least large urban centers followed the development in Italy. In detail, however, there may have been in-house developments, as evidenced by the idiosyncratic 2nd-style paintings from Petra, which can be assigned to this style, but differ in design from the paintings from Italy.
Frames and special shapes
Landscape painting and garden landscapes
There is evidence of garden landscapes in all periods. A room was completely painted like a garden. Most of the time this garden is fenced by a low wall, over which one could look into it. The garden is mostly richly populated with birds. Sometimes there are depictions of fountains and statues. With some Pompeian houses one gets the impression that these garden landscapes replace an otherwise not existing garden with statues. The garden landscapes have been occupied since the 2nd style and can only be assigned to one style with small details. The paintings in the Casa dei Cubicoli floreali date from B. from the time of the 3rd style and are therefore rather flat, while the landscapes of the 2nd and 4th style are very concerned with spatial depth.
The depiction of landscapes has been well attested since the Second Style, for example through the Odyssey landscapes that were excavated in a house on the Esquiline in Rome. They represent parts of the Odyssey. The approximately 1.60 meter high murals show Odysseus and other heroic figures in a landscape dominating the depiction. Rocks, trees, palaces are reproduced in an impressionistic style. Under Augustus, a painter named Ludius was said to have been active, whom Pliny the Elder explicitly names in his natural history as the inventor of landscape paintings. He painted country houses, portics, landscaped gardens, forests, hills, fish ponds, canals, rivers and the coast, these pictures being populated with people. His motifs also included villas and seaside towns such as those found in Pompeii and other Vesuvius towns.
The central picture of a wall usually formed a mythological picture, other motifs as a central picture are comparatively rare. The picture is usually rectangular. Such pictures only appear in the last phase of the 2nd style and are rather typical for elaborate paintings, while simpler ones often do without such pictures. Most of these pictures were probably copies of Greek panel paintings, but they followed their models rather loosely and were changed according to taste, so that there can be different versions of a single picture that differ significantly. It always happened that other characters, such as small erotes or spectators, were arranged around the main characters.
Depending on the style, significant developments can also be seen in these mythological images. In the 2nd style the figures mostly act in a clearly reproduced landscape, while in the 3rd style this is often only hinted at and full attention is paid to the figures. The representation of the landscape becomes more important in the 4th style. From this time in particular there are also a lot of artistically rather undemanding pictures, which maybe just depends on the chance of preservation. Mythological images have been documented up to the 4th century, but have already lost their importance in the Antonian period. The pictures get smaller and smaller within the wall and no longer take the central position that they had before. In the provinces these pictures are also documented, but they seem to be rarer.
In addition to the mythological images, representations of everyday life occupy a wide space. These are rarely found in the wall paintings of the living rooms, but often in shops or food stalls, where they served as advertising media. These everyday representations are often rather awkward stylistically and therefore differ significantly from the mythological scenes. Erotic representations in brothels certainly belong in a similar context. Stylistically, these are often rather simple.
From the 4th style, floating figures are very popular, which were painted in the fields next to the main pictures. Most of these are figures from mythology. Small landscape pictures, sometimes also the main picture of a wall, could take their place. These landscapes, among which the depictions of villas were very popular, are often very sketchy, impressionistically painted, but have a special charm as a result. They could even take up an entire wall, especially in the garden of a house. In addition to these pictures, still lifes are very popular. In thermal baths you can often find the representation of water with the fish swimming in it, and some dining rooms also create a reference to banquets.
Decoration and interior function
It can certainly be assumed that many paintings refer to the function of the room and also reflect the taste and the financial possibilities of the client. In general, it can be said that side rooms were designed much less elaborately than representative rooms. However, the connection between painted themes and the spatial function is surprisingly rarely really clear. Still lifes and Dionysian scenes were often used in storage rooms, but there are also other topics here and these scenes can also be found in rooms that were certainly not storage rooms. In the macellum, the fish and meat market of Pompeii can be found in the top register of paintings fish, so they clearly relate to the function of the building. In the main zone, on the other hand, there are mythological images such as Argos and Io or Odysseus and Penelope. The connection to the function of the building is difficult to understand.