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House of the Library

Description of the House (Reg VI, Ins 17, 41)

The House of the Library (pictured right) is situated on the Vicolo del Farmacista just south of its junction with the Via Consolare. The house, first excavated in 1759 and again during the 1970s, is named after the possible existence of a private library in the building.
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However, patches of fresco decoration have survived, especially on the east wall on either side of the entrance (pictured above) and in the south ala (pictured below). The fourth style decoration consists of dark red panels framed in white on a pastel green ground above a high lower frieze.
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The large oecus (d) is accessed off the south east corner of the atrium. Like the atrium, and in fact all of the other ground floor rooms, the oecus is in a semi-ruinous state, with a few large patches of fresco decoration on otherwise bare and broken walls. The second style decoration (pictured upper right) consists of painted columns on a mainly red ground above a high frieze in yellows and red.
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The tablinum leads directly to a broad open terrace (h) to the west which would have had spectacular views over the Bay of Naples. Several other rooms open onto the terrace, in particular the cubiculum and exedra pictured opposite.
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A similar colour scheme is evident in the adjoining exedra (j) (pictured upper right and right). The room bears evidence of fittings for a large built-in bookcase, possibly identifying the room as a private library (Strocka).
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The well preserved second style frescoes on two of the walls show two contemporary Romans (identifiable as such because they are beardless), one of them shown as a poet, the other, as Strocka suggests, as a scholar with his pointer (pictured opposite).
Both wear the Greek himation. These frescoes were probably meant to celebrate the literary abilities of the house's owner or those of his friends. It is also quite possible that both figures represent the same individual.
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The entrance, on the west side of the Vicolo del Farmacista (pictured above) opens directly onto a tetrastyle atrium with a central impluvium (pictured left and below). The atrium is in a poor state of preservation with most of the walls in a semi- ruinous state and only a few broken columns to testify to rooms previous grandeur.
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The cubiculum (e) off the north west corner of the atrium is more plainly decorated with rectangles picked out in red on a yellow ground (pictured above).
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A striking piece of fresco decoration (pictured above and left) came from one of the other cubicula in the house. The panels can now be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. The fresco above comes from the south wall and features an architectural scene framed by columns with hanging fish in side panels on a red ground surmounted by theatrical masks. The fresco from the north wall (part of which is pictured upper left) features game in the side panels in place of fish, again decorated with theatrical masks.
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The tablinum (e) is in the middle of the west wall of the atrium, facing the entrance (pictured above). Some decoration remains, in particular on the north wall (pictured left) which includes the prows of two ships on a white ground above a lower red decorated frieze.
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The cubiculum (i) (in the right of the photograph above) is richly decorated in the second style with fantastic architecture incorporating human figures above a lower yellow frieze (detail pictured left). The colours are quite sophisticated with pale reds and greens mixed with strong yellows and purple.
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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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