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House of the Four Styles

Description of the House (Reg I, Ins 8, 17, 11)

This house faces onto the Vicolo dell'Efebo (pictured below). It was first excavated in 1937 and again in 1951. The house derives its name from the presence of all four decorative styles, although, in Pompeii, this is not particularly exceptional.
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The fauces (a), which opens off the east side of
the Vicolo dell'Efebo, retains some of its original decoration (pictured right). The fauces opens onto an impressive atrium (b). The atrium, pictured below, is tetrastyle with four Corinthian columns of tufa sustaining the roof. The central impluvium is unusual in that it has a raised travertine surround.
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The atrium contained a lararium closed with a wooden door. The cabinet enclosed an altar with two imagines maiorum, portraits of the family's ancestors. Also found in the house was a cylindrical bronze food warmer (pictured right).

The atrium has rooms off all four sides. To the left of the fauces is a cubiculum (c) which is decorated mainly in the first style (pictured below).
The decoration consists of painted plaster imitating blocks of polychrome marble. The north side of the room is slightly raised with a short wall splitting the northern part of the room into a bed recess on one side and a narrow area for storage on the other.

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Cubiculum (d) off the north west corner of the atrium (pictured lower right and below) is decorated in the fourth style with red framed panels on a white ground above a lower dark red frieze. The fourth style decoration includes occasional small rectangular scenes.
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Both the north and south walls have recesses at their western end (shown below ). A narrow doorway in the east wall links the cubiculum with the ala (e) to the east.

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In the centre of the east side of the atrium is a small tablinum (g) (pictured right) which has only a few plaster remnants to hint at its original fresco decoration. There is a window in its east wall.
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In the central panel on the rear wall is a fresco of the god Pan accompanied by nymphs (pictured right).
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In a room (p) off the north west side of the portico a flight of stairs led to the upper floor. The area to the north of the garden was a stable yard which connected to the unnamed street on the east side of the insula by means of the posticum (q).

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The ala (pictured left) is fully open on its south side and is decorated in a mix of styles with red panels framed in white on a yellow ground above a lower black panelled frieze. Above the red panels is a band of black rectangles also framed in white. The upper zone consists of coloured blocks on a yellow ground.

The small cubiculum (f) immediately to the east of the ala is decorated in a similar style. The decoration (pictured lower left) consists of alternating red and yellow panels topped with a painted cornice above a lower black frieze. The upper zone consists of alternating red and yellow blocks.
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The tablinum has a narrow doorway in its south wall leading directly to the adjoining triclinium. In the tablinum are the plaster casts of two individuals found in the house (beneath the window in the picture above).

The triclinium (h) (pictured left) is a large room decorated in the third style with red and gold framed panels. The north, east and south walls all have a central painting. The mythological scene on the south wall (pictured lower left) is the Judgement of Paris (shown below).
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The scene on the east wall shows Daedalus tying the wings of Icarus while the scene on the north wall (pictured left) is thought by some to be a rare scene from a fabula saltica, a mine show with musical accompaniment. This is not the consensus, however, and it may just as likely be a mythological scene representing Hercules freeing Theseus in the Underworld.

The cubiculum (i) off the south east corner of the atrium has lost all its original decoration with only a few plaster remnants. The adjoining ala (j), which is fully open along its north side, is decorated with black panels framed in red above a lower dark red frieze. The panels contain occasional small still lifes.

The cubiculum (k) immediately to the west of the ala is in a poor state of repair with little or no surviving decoration. The final cubiculum (l) to open off the atrium is decorated in a mix of styles with alternating red and yellow panels above a lower black frieze. The decoration of the upper zone consists of imitation ashlar blocks.

 

From the atrium an andron leads to the portico (m) (pictured left) which overlooked the small garden (n) beyond. Of the rooms that open off the portico, the exedra (o) on the west side is the best preserved. The room is decorated in the second style (pictured lower left) in reds and yellows above a lower black frieze.
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Images ©Jackie and Bob Dunn are reproduced by permission from their website at www.pompeiiinpictures.com
(Su concessione del Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali: Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei)





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