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Times On Line

Pompeii frescoes rise from motorway
From Richard Owen in Rome
January 18th, 2003

A SERIES of Pompeii frescoes that came to light during the building of a motorway have gone on display in Rome after two years of restoration. 
The painted panels once adorned a substantial palace, thought to have been a luxury hotel, in the southern suburbs of Pompeii, which was overwhelmed by an eruption of Vesuvius in AD79. They were removed for conservation from the site of the motorway under construction between Naples and Salerno. 

The restored frescoes have been unveiled at the newly completed Rome Auditorium, or concert hall. In March they will go on permanent display at the Naples Archaeological Museum. 

Marisa Mastroroberto, an expert on classical art who has studied the “hotel frescoes”, said that she was particularly struck by one thought to show the god Apollo playing the lyre. She believed that the fresco was a portrait of the young Nero, perhaps about the time of his assumption of power in AD54. 

Other frescoes depict Calliope, the Greek muse of epic poetry, and Urania, the muse of astronomy. Signora Mastroroberto suggested that these could be depictions of members of Nero’s family, including Agrippina, his mother, and Octavia, his wife, both of whom Nero had murdered as he became increasingly demented. 

Antonio De Simone, the archaeologist who led the motorway excavations, said that the building in which the frescoes had been found had stood 600 metres outside the city walls. It had probably been a restaurant and country hotel, complete with thermal baths. The frescoes had decorated the main triclinium, or dining room. Professor De Simone said that while the frescoes had been rescued, the ruins of the hotel had been reburied so that work on the motorway could continue. 

Giuliano Urbani, the Minister of Culture, said that there were plans to build a hotel near the ruins of Pompeii, together with a museum at which visitors would be able to don “virtual reality visors” to visit Pompeii as it would have been at the height of its glory.



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