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House of Cornelius Rufus

Description of the House (Reg VIII, Ins 4, 15)

The House of Cornelius Rufus, also known as the Domus Cornelia, is situated on the Via dell'Abbondanza across from the Stabian Baths. The house was first excavated in 1855 and again in 1861 and 1893. The property belonged to the gens Cornelia dating back to the time of Sulla.
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Visible in the background of the early photograph, on the left side of the tablinum, is the marble herma of Cornelius Rufus, now sadly no longer in situ (pictured opposite). Also present,   on the far side of the impluvium, are a pair of marble table supports carved in the form of back-to-back standing griffins (pictured below). These are now on display in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
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Off the north west corner of the atrium is a small room (c) with a flight of stairs to the upper floor. On the south wall of the room is an arched niche on an otherwise bare wall (pictured opposite).

In the centre of the south side of the atrium is the tablinum (d). The tablinum has lost all of its fresco decoration and the walls, especially the east wall, are in a very unstable condition.
The tablinum is open to the atrium over its full wide and has a wide doorway on its south wall opening onto the north ambulatory of the peristyle (e) (pictured below).
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The house itself has a typical atrium-tablinum- garden layout. The entrance opens off the south side of the Via dell'Abbondanza near its junction with the Via Stabiana.  The walls of the fauces (a) retain some plaster remnants, but what remains is too faded to allow a clear description of its decoration.
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The fauces opens directly onto a rectangular
atrium (b) complete with a central impluvium which featured a small fountain. The house is in a general state of disrepair with little in the way of remaining decoration.
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The early photograph on the left shows the atrium as it was in about 1870. Comparing this photograph with the more recent picture directly above gives some idea of the loss of fresco decoration that has taken place.
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The colonnade of the peristyle was sustained by eighteen fluted tufa columns. In the centre of the peristyle is a rectangular garden with a small pool near its southern end.

The rooms round the peristyle are also in a very poor state of repair. Perhaps the room with the most surviving detail is the small cubiculum (g) off the north west corner of the peristyle. In the bed recess (pictured left) are remnants of painted plaster with a yellow central zone above a lower dark red, decorated frieze. The room has a coloured marble floor with a centre-piece in opus sectile.
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The oecus (h) off the north east corner of the peristyle also retains large sections of plasterwork although they are too weathered to allow a realistic description of the decoration. When first excavated it appears that at least two of the walls had a mythological scene in their central panels. These, according to W. Helbig (1868), were of Paris and Oenone and a rather indistinct picture of two bearded men in conversation. The room has a narrow doorway in its north west corner opening onto the atrium.
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Adjoining oecus (h) is the triclinium (i). The walls of the triclinium retain some remnants of of plasterwork which give a few hints to the original decoration, but too few to allow an overall description.
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On the east side of the peristyle is a flight of stairs (j) to the upper floor. Next to the stairs is a passageway which leads to door No.23 (k) on the Via Stabiana.  The south side of the peristyle (pictured left) overlooks the peristyle of the adjoining property VIII.4.27 which lies at a lower level.

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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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