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House of the Mosaic Atrium

Description of the House (Ins IV, 1-2)

The House of the Mosaic Atrium (pictured below) lies on the east side of Cardo IV with a southern aspect overlooking the Bay of Naples. The house occupies an area of over 1200 sq.m. much of which, like the adjoining House of the Deer, taken over by a large peristyle garden and a string of richly decorated rooms overlooking the sea. What distinguishes this house from its neighbour is its spectacular atrium.
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The fauces (a) is decorated in the fourth style and is ornamented by a fine black and white mosaic floor (pictured below and right) consisting of a variety of geometric shapes and stylized floral patterns. Two service rooms (d) and (e) open off this entrance passageway; service room (d) also has a flight of stairs to the upper floor.
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Maiuri described this room as a rare example of an Oceus Aegyptius or Egyptian dining room based on Vitruvius's description (Book VI, Chapter III). The sheer scale of the room, however, precludes its use as a dining room. Given its position in place of the tablinum, it must have been used as a public reception area, deliberately evoking the public setting of the basilica.
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On the south side of the atrium is a door (f) (pictured opposite) which opens onto the north portico of the large peristyle (g) (pictured below). The columns which sustained the inner margins of the portico roof are
of opus vittatum mixtum, alternating rows of brick and tufa blocks. The spaces between the columns on the north and south porticoes were infilled and contained large rectangular windows.
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The peristyle, which is broad on three sides, narrowing at its southeast corner (pictured opposite), has additional rooms along its eastern and southern sides.
In the centre of the eastern side (pictured above) is a large exedra
(h), which extends out into the garden with a small terrace.
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In the centre of the south side of the peristyle is the large triclinium (i) (pictured opposite). Although the walls of the triclinium are substantially complete, they have lost most of their fresco decoration with the exception of the north east corner (pictured lower right).
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The fauces opens onto a enormous atrium (b) (pictured below and lower left) which, as the name of the house implies, has a beautiful black and white, geometric mosaic floor. The floor is considerably buckled due to the weight of mud and ashes from the eruption but what the undulations also reveal are the lines of the walls of an earlier underlying house.
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At the rear of the atrium, in place of the usual tablinum, is a large room (c) of unusual size and form (pictured opposite). A series of square pillars on the north and south sides of the room divide it in the pattern of a nave and two side aisles, while above the pillars rises a second storey with clerestory windows reminiscent of the classical basilica layout.
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The atrium, rather than being the central hub of the building, is here isolated from the rest of the house, the remainder of the rooms radiating off the peristyle which had a large central garden, in the middle of which was a fountain in a marble lined pool.
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The walls of the exedra are elegantly decorated in the fourth style with fantastic architecture set on a vibrant blue background above a lower dark red decorative frieze (pictured left and lower left). In the middle of each central panel was a mythological scene, the surviving two of which depict the Punishment of Dirce, and Diana and Acteon painted in brown monochrome, a style much favoured in Herculaneum.
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The exedra had a fine mosaic floor consisting of a broad white border with a large central panel in opus sectile (pictured below).
In addition to the wide opening onto the garden the exedra was linked with the east side of the peristyle by doors at the west end of its north and south walls.
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Flanking the central exedra north and south are four good sized cubicula each decorated with elegant fourth style frescoes on a red ground.

Leading off the southwest corner of the peristyle are the remains of a flight of stairs (n) which once led to an upper floor. Nearby is the secondary entrance or posticum (m).

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The triclinium has a doorway at the southern end of each of its east and west walls which link the room to the adjoining apartments. In the south wall is a wide portal which opens onto the loggia (j)..The loggia (shown left) was decorated with frescoes in the fourth style and had a marble pavement in opus sectile. At either end is a diaerae (k) and (l), isolated from the rest of the house, but with commanding views over the Bay of Naples to the south.


Panoramic View of the Loggia






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