Period: Late Republic
Date: 50-40 B.C.
Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1903
The Wall Painting from a Cubiculum Nocturnum is a great piece of artwork. The painting shows visual ambiguities that tease the eye including architectural details that are painted to resemble the real ones such as pillars, columns that cast shadows and rusticated masonry. The painting was obtained from a villa that was built during the first century B.C. Among other numerous paintings that are examples of the late Second Style that grew from an early Hellenistic painting style. The bedroom from the villa at Boscoreale has been reassembled inside New York’s museum of art where the walls are painted to look like views of the villa’s grounds. Glass and metal objects are placed on the shelves casting shadows. On the walls of the bedroom, there exist several paintings.
Numerous of the wall paintings are frescoes that seem to have plastered on the wall when it was still fresh. Frescoes are made through covering the walls with a layer of plaster and after the plaster is dry, the artist performs a rough sketch. The artist further applies another coat of plaster and paints on it when it is still dry. The painting becomes a permanent part of the wall.
It once decorated the bedroom wall of the Mythological room in the Imperial Villa at Boscotrecase. The painting portrays the Cyclops Polyphemus as the suitor of the sea nymph Galatea who is painted riding a dolphin at the lower left. Polyphemus is seated at the center of a rocky outcrop where he is professing his deep desire for Galatea with a melody but to no avail. The wall painting comes from a bedroom in the imperial villa that is uncovered between the periods of 1902 and 1905.
The painting combines two separate incidents in the life of one giant, Polyphemus. He is sited on a rocky projection while looking after his goats and gazing at the beautiful sea-nymph, Galatea. Polyphemus is madly in love with Galatea. Behind and closely above the right, he is portrayed once more hurling a boulder at the departing ship of Odysseus. The ship is escaping carrying men that are being led by Odysseus after blinding a giant. The painting in the same room shows two incidents that are happening consecutively in the story of Andromeda and Perseus. The front incidence shows Perseus flying in to rescue the beautiful princess who is strongly chained to a rock by a sea-monster. Just above the right, the happy couple are welcomed by their parents. The themes that link the two works are that of love and that of the sea. The combination of the two episodes in a single panel is an innovative move.
The painting is one that is unique and highly regarded by numerous artistes. A reason for this is because the paintings were done using frescoes. Despite the technique being durable, painting is a very fragile medium and when it is exposed to air and light it fades away significantly. Therefore, the paintings that were found in Pompeii are considered to be rare. The paintings bring out a certain level of complexity and sophistication in the artistes who are responsible for the drawings. I strongly believe that the wall painting from a Cubiculum Nocturnum is a great piece of work that should always be protected.