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House of the Figured Capitals

Description of the House (Reg VII, Ins 4, 57)

The House of the Figured Capitals lies on the south side of the Via della Fortuna about midway along insula 4. The house was first excavated in 1831 and then again in 1836. The property derives its name from the figures carved in the tufa capitals of the pilasters at the entrance to the house (pictured below and, from an early postcard, lower right).
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Such figures are not infrequently found on pilasters of the tufa period, the subjects usually taken, as here, from the bacchic cycle.
On the side facing the street each capital displayed a satyr and a maenad. On the left of the entrance the satyr clasps his partner to him (pictured below).
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On the right of the entrance an older satyr leans drunkenly away from the maenad (pictured opposite). On the side of the each capital facing the entrance, in counterpoint to the satyr and maenad, are displayed couples at a symposium (pictured right and below). The men are naked to the waist, the women swathed in modest robes, but their expressions and embrace make it clear that they too are enjoying an amorous encounter.
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As can be seen from the photographs, the house is in a general state of disrepair with little in the way of remaining decoration. Opening off the north east corner of the atrium is a a reasonably sized oecus (c). The room was lit by a narrow window on its north wall.
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Cubiculum (j) in the centre of the west side of the atrium is slightly unusual in that the north and south walls of the room have been 'doubled up' with an additional facing of masonry (pictured right). The earlier built-over surface retains a layer of plasterwork in places. In the north east corner of the cubiculum is a doorway which leads to the triclinium (k).
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Immediately to the west of the tablinum is an andron (n) which directly connects the atrium with the peristyle to the south. The peristyle was porticoed on three sides with 14 tufa and stuccoed brickwork columns supporting the inner margins of the roof (pictured opposite and below).
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The kitchen (s) is located off the south east corner of the peristyle together with a further two rooms (t and u), all of which are in a ruinous condition with little in the way of surviving plasterwork and certainly no remaining decoration. The kitchen included a latrine and a flight of stairs to the upper floor.
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The decoration of the west wall of the peristyle in enhanced by
a row of engaged columns (pictured above and upper right). Between these fluted columns the wall is covered with stucco formed into panels characteristic of the first style.

In the centre of the west wall are the remains of a lararium which consisted of a tall rectangular niche framed by solid tufa blocks set on a masonry plinth. Although damaged, there are still some traces of pigmentation in the niche, but there is no decorative detail visible.

According to Jashemski and Della Corte (see bibliography), at the time of the eruption the peristyle had been converted into an officina textrinum, or weaver’s workshop. Surviving graffiti (CIL IV 1569, 1570, 1571, 1572) indicate the location of three looms under the portico and record the names of the individual weavers who worked them.
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The fauces (a) opens off the south side of the Via della Fortuna onto a rectangular atrium (b) (pictured lower left) with a central impluvium. On the south side of the impluvium is a fluted puteal. The walls of the fauces and atrium are in a ruinous state and have lost virtually all of their decorative plasterwork. The remaining plaster fragments are too badly faded to determine their original decoration.
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Adjoining the oecus is a service room (d) (pictured left) which has the remains of a flight of stairs to the upper floor in its south east corner. Immediately south of the service room are two small cubicula (e and f), the more southerly of which has a narrow doorway in its south wall opening onto the adjacent ala (g).
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There is a similar arrangement with the ala (h) on the west side of the atrium where there is a linking doorway to the adjacent cubiculum (i).
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The main entrance to the triclinium is off the north west corner of the atrium (pictured left). The triclinium, like the rest of the house, is in a semi ruinous condition with only a few plaster remnants to hint at its original decoration. To the east of the triclinium is a small porters room (l) which was lit by a narrow window high on its north wall.
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In the centre of the south side of the atrium is the tablinum (m). The tablinum (pictured left) is open to the atrium over its full width. The east and west walls of the tablinum retain some patches of plasterwork, but any decorative detail has long since been lost. In the south wall of the tablinum is a wide opening giving access to the peristyle (q).
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In the centre of the peristyle was a garden, the main feature of which was a pergola which was supported on 6 masonry columns.
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Opening off the north west corner of the peristyle is the oecus (o). The room has a few areas of plasterwork but no decorative detail. The oecus has a wide opening onto the north portico and a narrow doorway in its south east corner which links with the andron (n).
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The exedra (p) (pictured opposite) opens off the north east corner of the peristyle. The walls of the exedra are devoid of plasterwork. The exedra, which is almost fully open to the north portico, is linked by two doorways, one to the atrium and a second, in its south west corner, to the adjoining tablinum (m).
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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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