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Herculaneum‎ > ‎Insula VI‎ > ‎

House of the Black Hall

Description of the House (Ins VI, 11,13)

The House of the Black Hall is one of Herculaneum's more luxurious mansions. It is situated at the junction of Cardo IV with the Decumanus Maximus. The house has a monumental entrance (in the left of the picture below) which still retains the carbonised remains of the doorposts and lintel.
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The atrium and its surrounding rooms, as well as the remaining rooms on the east side of the property are all in a very poor state. Of all the rooms round the atrium, the tablinum has survived best. The walls of the tablinum are in opus incertum with frames made of square blocks of tufa. The fourth style decoration consists of a black middle zone featuring central panels depicting a temple style structure topped by a tympanum (pictured right), above a lower purple base. The upper zone is composed of geometric motifs in purple on a white ground.

The tablinum opens directly onto a square peristyle (d) to the south. In an upper floor room, overlooking the peristyle, were found twenty wax tablets bearing the name of L. Venidius Ennychus as well as a number of texts concerning his eligibility for public office. He may or may not have been the owner as the upper floor could have been rented out.
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The adjoining room, oecus (f) (pictured below), is decorated with white panels framed in red separated by architectural motifs above a lower red frieze. There is no separate upper zone in this room, as it can simply be regarded as a continuation of the main decorative theme. Like oecus (e), the room has a white mosaic floor with a simple double border in black. On the south side of the room a door leads down to a small open area (g) which contains a temple style lararium (pictured opposite). The lararium has lost all its original stucco decoration.
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On the right hand side of the entrance is a shop sign (pictured above) for the adjoining property.
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The fauces (a) (pictured above) which shows a few
traces of second style decoration, opens onto a rectangular atrium (b) (pictured left viewed from the tablinum (upper) and the fauces (lower)). In the centre of the atrium is a marble lined impluvium and a puteal with a fluted shaft made from a single block of white limestone. The walls of the atrium, built in opus incertum, are devoid of any decoration except for a few faded plaster remnants.
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On the west side of the atrium are two cubicula and a kitchen (j) while on the east side are a third cubiculum and an ala At the rear of the atrium is a large tablinum (c) (in the centre of the photograph opposite) measuring 7.7m by 5.1m.
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The peristyle (pictured opposite) was colonnaded on all four sides and had a small central garden. The columns and pillars which supported the inner margins of the peristyle roof are of stuccoed brickwork while the paving of the ambulatories is of gray/black mosaic incorporating rows of white tesserae and a white double border.
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The two surviving rooms which open off the south side of the peristyle are decorated in the fourth style. Both rooms have partly vaulted ceilings. The decoration of oecus (e) consists of white panels framed in blue and red on a white ground above a lower black frieze (pictured below and left). The upper zone contains architectural and geometric motifs in red and black on a white ground. The room has a white mosaic floor with a simple double border in black.
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Opening off the west side of the peristyle is the large 'black hall' (h) after which to house was named (pictured opposite and below). The decoration is again in the fourth style and consists of black central panels framed by columns flanked by black side panels containing architectural motifs. The room has a vaulted ceiling decorated with geometric patterns on a black ground.
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Opening off the north west corner of the peristyle is the cubiculum (i) which is preceded by a small vestibule (left) whose walls echo the decoration of the adjacent  'black hall'. The room is decorated in the fourth style with red panels above a lower black frieze. The ceiling retains some of its fourth style decoration (pictured above).




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