Description of the House (Reg IX, Ins 7, 20)
House of Fortuna lies on the Vicolo di Tesmo a short distance north of
its junction with the Vicolo di Balbo. The house was named after a
graffito (CIL IV 5371) referring to the goddess Fortuna found near the
on the south side of the atrium
. The house is also known as the
House of the Mirror (Casa dello Specchio), the House of the Arches and
the House of D. Caprasius Felix and Fortunata. The house was initially
excavated in 1879.
The fauces (a) (pictured right), which opens off the east side of the Vicolo di Tesmo, has lost most of its plasterwork, the remaining plaster
being too weathered to allow a realistic description of its original decoration. The fauces opens onto a square atrium (b) (pictured below) which is without a central impluvium.
Opening off the south west corner of the atrium is a small cubiculum (d)
(pictured below). The room is decorated in the fourth style with red
side panels framing yellow central panels above an unpainted lower
A white marble bust (pictured right) was found in the
body of the atrium. The bust, possibly of Io (a priestess of Hera), was
probably originally sited in the peristyle but may have been displaced
due to the effects of the eruption.
The service room (e) in the north west corner of the
house contains a flight of stairs which led to the upper floor.
Adjoining this room to the east is a small public room (f), perhaps a
The north east side of the atrium opens directly onto the peristyle (g).
The colonnade is unusual in that the columns along the north eastern
side of the peristyle support a series of arches (pictured right). The earliest known use of an arch
springing directly from a column capital in architecture is the
so-called Syrian arch found in the Temple of Dushara at Si', Syria in
the late first century BC.
The north east wall (pictured above) contains a rather faded scene (pictured opposite) of Ares and Aphrodite. The scene is rather difficult to interpret, however; it could equally well be of Mars and Venus.
The scene on the rear (south east) wall is even less clear but appears to show Dionysus discovering Ariadne.
In the centre of the south west wall (pictured below), the third and
final scene (pictured opposite) shows Adonis with a companion going on a
The room also provided access to the rooms on both the
ground and first floors on the south side of the house by way of a
passageway (j) off its south west corner and an adjacent flight of
stairs to the upper floor (pictured opposite).
In the centre of the north east wall of the garden area is an arched
gateway (m) (visible in the bottom right of the picture opposite). The
gateway opens onto the partially excavated area (n) shown hatched in the
accompanying plan. Against the south west face of the garden wall is a
large ornamental fountain (o) (pictured below).
Like the fauces
most of the plasterwork in the atrium
has been lost with
the exception of a large area on the south east wall (pictured lower
left). This section of plasterwork retains some areas of faded colour
but, again, too indistinct to provide a basis for a proper description.
In the centre of this wall is a niche lararium
(c) embellished with
stucco in the form of a pediment supported by two Doric
(pictured below). In the niche were found three bronze statuettes and a
Much of the decorative detail has faded, but when first excavated the
red side panels contained small medallions. The room was lit by a window
high up on the south west wall overlooking the Vicolo di Tesmo.
The room (pictured opposite) is decorated in the fourth style
panels with internal borders separated by candelabra above a fairly
plain lower frieze. The room was lit by a small window high up in its
north west wall.
The peristyle in the House of Fortuna is the earliest known example of arches springing directly from capitals in a
colonnade and dates from between the late first century BC and the early first century AD. The capitals are plain square stones, the columns are unfluted
and the arches are constructed of stone voussoirs.
On the south east side of the
peristyle is a large triclinium (h). The triclinium is decorated in the
fourth style with large black, yellow and red panels on a red ground
above a lower black decorative frieze. The central panels on each wall
contain a mythological scene.
A doorway in the south west corner of the peristyle opens onto a large
room (i) which was also accessed directly off the atrium (pictured
left). The purpose of this room is unclear; it was possibly a workshop.
The room has a large window in its north west wall which overlooked the
peristyle to the east.
The passageway (j) leads to the service area which included the kitchen
(pictured opposite). In the south east corner of the kitchen are the
remains of a masonry work bench while in the south west corner is a
small arched niche. The north end of the kitchen was lit by a narrow
window high up in the west wall.
After the kitchen the passageway turns east leading to a second
garden area (l) (pictured lower left, looking back towards
the kitchen). The garden area, whilst providing recreational space also
acted as a source of light to several of the adjoining rooms.
fountain consists of a pediment set over an arched niche completely faced with
mosaic in poly-chrome glass tesserae. Water flowed from a square
opening in the niche to cascade down a small flight of steps into the
The decorative detail in the recessed arch includes a scene on the left
hand side with two female figures, one seated and one standing (pictured
below) while on the right hand side is a bathing scene with cupids and a
single male bather. Nearby a female figure stands holding his dry
On either side of the fountain is a small shrine consisting of a
pediment above a rectangular niche. The shrines were of stuccoed
masonry, but any decorative detail has long since been weathered away.
In the shine on the north side of the fountain (pictured opposite) were
found several terracotta statuettes; Asclepius with a snake, Bacchus
with a leopard, a woman holding a bird and shattered fragments of a
fourth, possibly portraying Minerva.
* Images ©Jackie and Bob Dunn are
reproduced by permission from their website at
(Su concessione del Ministero per
i Beni e le Attività Culturali:
Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di
Napoli e Pompei)