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House of the Painters at Work

Description of the House (Reg IX, Ins 12, 9)

The House of the Painters at Work is currently being excavated along with the adjoining House of the Chaste Lovers as part of the on-going excavation which encompasses much of the southern end of Reg IX, Insula 12.
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The property derives its name from the unfinished state of the decoration in the large oecus (k) in the south east corner of the building. Painters pots and brushes were found in the room and several of the central panels bear only the sketched outlines of the proposed decorative scene to be painted there.
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The building has an irregular layout and may have been of mixed commercial and domestic use at the time of the eruption.
The house spans the width of the insula with an entrance on each of the bordering side streets. The doorway (a) on the west side (yet to be assigned an official door number) is presumably the main entrance as the eastern doorway (j) leads directly to the kitchen area and household latrine.
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The rooms on the west side of the property have only been partially excavated and the exact interaction between some of the rooms has yet to be determined. Two rooms that have been cleared are cubicula (b) and (c) (pictured opposite with an intervening passageway). Cubiculum (b) (pictured below) is decorated in the fourth style with white panels with floating figures framing central white panels containing a decorative scene, all above a lower red frieze. The upper zone consists of geometric themes on a white ground.
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The area of the house that has been extensively excavated is the viridarium (d) (pictured upper right) and its surrounding rooms. The peristyle, colonnaded on three sides, is decorated with a frieze of red panels framed in yellow below a plain white upper zone (the view opposite is of the north side of the colonnade looking east).
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Room (e) off the north west corner of the peristyle appears to have been left undecorated and used as a storeroom, as witnessed by the discovery of a number of amphorae found stacked against the north wall.
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The adjoining oecus (f) is decorated in the fourth style (pictured below and lower right) with white framed panels containing central scenes above a lower decorated red frieze. The upper zone is similarly decorated with smaller framed panels containing floating figures separated by garlands.
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As can be seen in the photographs of the oecus several of the central scenes are missing, having been removed some time in the past. A more recent 'removal' happened in April 2003 when thieves chiselled two such frescoes from the walls  and in the process not only badly damaged the frescoes but also the walls of the room. The frescoes were quickly recovered and have now been fully restored. One of the frescoes is of a cock pecking a pomegranate (pictured opposite).
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Cubiculum (h) off the east side of the peristyle (pictured opposite) is decorated with red panels containing floating figures and garlands on either side of a red central panel holding a small framed scene. The plain lower frieze is painted in black while the upper zone consists of a geometric theme with figures and garlands. The plasterwork in this room, especially on the east wall, is rather loose and is tending to spall from the face of the wall (pictured lower right).
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Immediately to the south of this room is the kitchen and latrines (i). This domestic area has its own access to the street (j). Unlike the rest of the house, the kitchen has little or no decoration.
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The colonnade on the eastern side of the peristyle terminates at a prothyron or porch in front of the large oecus (k). As mentioned previously the decoration in this room was in the process of being completed which Vesuvius struck. The room is finely decorated in the fourth style with black side panels separated from the central red panels by architectural motifs of columns and garlands (pictured below).

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The central pictures from each red panel are missing, with only sketched outlines to hint at the intended scene to be portrayed. The black panels have central medallions incorporating floating figures. The room has a white mosaic floor with a fine black border and a central panel in coloured tesserae forming a geometric pattern within a black and white geometric frame (pictured right).
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Cubiculum (c) (the furthest away room in the above photograph) has a window in its eastern wall and is also decorated in the fourth style with white panels framed in red above a lower red frieze. The room has a fine mosaic floor in a black and white geometric pattern with an additional rectangular mosaic marking the threshold.
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Cubiculum (g) and its anteroom (pictured opposite) are decorated in the third style with red and yellow panels containing occasional small central scenes above a lower black frieze. The upper zone in each room consists of a geometric design on a yellow ground.
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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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