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House of Venus in the Shell

Description of the House (Reg II, Ins 3, 3)

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The fauces (a) which opens off the south side of the
the Via dell'Abbondanza is decorated in the third style with red panels separated by decorative vertical bands on a black ground above a lower black frieze (pictured right). In the centre of the panels are small medallions.
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On the north side of the atrium, on either side of the entrance, are two cubicula which have lost most of their original decoration.
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A third cubiculum (d) opens off the south east corner of the atrium. The room is decorated in the third style with framed white panels separated by fantastic architectural views above a lower dark red frieze
(pictured below and lower right). The central panel of the south wall contains a badly faded mythological scene of Hermes and Dionysus. The side panels on the north wall contain floating figures while on the east are are two portrait medallions.
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In the north west corner of the atrium is a doorway leading to adjoining workshops. Just south of this is the entrance to the triclinium (c). The triclinium has a vaulted ceiling and is decorated in the third style with architectural themes framing black panels above a lower black frieze (pictured right). The panels contain floating figures while immediatley above the panels are small scenes and still lifes.

The third door on the west side of the atrium opens onto a large tablinum (k). This room has lost most of its decoration but still impresses with its size. The tablinum has a second doorway on its south wall which opens onto the north side of the peristyle.
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The south side of the atrium opens directly onto the peristyle (g) which encloses the internal garden (h) on three sides. The photographs above and right show the view from the atrium, looking south. In the upper photograph
the rear wall of the peristyle, which bears the large frescoes after which the house was named, can be glimpsed beyond the shrubbery.
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Off the east side of the peristyle is an oecus  (e) decorated with yellow panels separated by human figures set in fantastic architecture above a lower red frieze (pictured lower right). The yellow panels contained mythological scenes including that of Apollo and Daphne (pictured below).
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Just south of this oecus is a cubiculum (f), or perhaps an oecus, which is decorated in the third style with blue panels above a decorative black frieze. In the centre of these panels are small floating figures (pictured below) or scenes from mythology. The scene on the south wall (pictured right) is of Hermaphrodite and Salmacis.
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On the rear wall (i) of the peristyle are three large framed frescoes each set on a blue background. The left hand painting (pictured below) is of the god Mars shown standing naked on a plinth while holding a lance and a shield. Around him the foliaged garden is teaming with birdlife.
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In the south east corner of the garden is a small windowless room (pictured above). Its exterior wall bears a fresco featuring an urn on a yellow ground, with small details of birdlife.
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This house is situated on the Via dell'Abbondanza. Also known as the House of D. Lucretii Satrii Valentes, it was still being restored when Vesuvius erupted in AD79. Excavated between 1933-35, it was damaged by bombing during World War II in 1943. It was re-excavated and restored in 1952.
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The fauces opens directly onto a square atrium (b) with a central impluvium (pictured left and below). The atrium has lost much of its fresco decoration, but large plaster remnants show that it was decorated with red and yellow panels above a lower black frieze.
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The fluted columns of the portico are of stuccoed brickwork (pictured left) while the walls are decorated in the third style with large red and yellow panels containing small architectural scenes and still lifes above a lower black frieze.
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Along the west side of the peristyle (pictured above) is a series of cubicula, the best preserved of which is room (j) which, like the oecus (e) is richly decorated with yellow panels incorporating mythological scenes.
The scenes include Leda and the Swan on the north wall (pictured below and left) and, on the south wall, Atalanta and Meleager.
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The central painting on the rear wall (pictured above with a detail below) is of Venus lying in a conch shell with a nymph either side of her. The nymph on the left side of the painting is shown riding a dolphin while the one on the right supports the conch shell.
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The right-hand painting (pictured below) is of flowers and birds drinking at a fountain. The fresco incorporates a niche painted with plants. An enlargement of a small section of this fresco is shown bottom left.
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Although the fresco decoration of the southern end of the garden may not be of the highest quality artistically, the work has been done with vigour and flair and provides an extremely colourful and dramatic backdrop to the garden.


* 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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