chapter  20
21 Pages

DOMESTIC DECORATION: Painting and the “Four Styles”

ByVolker Michael Strocka

We can hardly imagine how colorful were the houses of Pompeii or any otherRoman city during the early imperial period. Today the walls are largely bare, revealing mostly structural and chronological details. Originally they were all plastered, and many were brightly painted. Exterior walls were usually simply whitewashed above a red or black socle, but façades and especially entryways of houses or shops received additional ornamentation in the form of colorful faux masonry, figural shop signs, representations of gods, or apotropaic symbols. On the interior, hardly a room aside from cellars, storage rooms and narrow corridors contained walls without ornamental and/or figural paintings (Figure 20.1). Even ceilings were brightly painted; these echoed floors in colorful terrazzo or black-and-white mosaics, sometimes with colorful emblemata (cf. Clarke, Ch. 21).1