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The Social Life of Painting in Ancient Rome and on the Bay of Naples


  • 212 b/w illus. 12 colour illus.
  • Page extent: 370 pages
  • Size: 276 x 219 mm
  • Weight: 1.614 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 751.7/3/09377
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: ND2575 .L43 2004
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Mural painting and decoration, Roman--Italy--Campania--Social aspects
    • Interior decoration--Rome--Social aspects
    • Dwellings--Rome
    • Art and society--Rome
    • Symbolism in art--Rome

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521826006 | ISBN-10: 0521826004)

In this study, Eleanor Winsor Leach offers a new interpretation of Roman painting as found in domestic spaces of the elite classes of ancient Rome and Campania. Because the Roman house fulfilled an important function as the seat of its owner's political power, its mural decoration provides critical evidence for the interrelationship between public and private life. The painted images, Leach contends, reflect the codes of communication embedded in upper class life, such as the performative theatricality that was expected of those leading public lives, the self-conscious assimilation of Hellenistic culture among aristocrats and the ambivalent attitudes towards luxury as a coveted sign of power and a symptom of ethical degeneracy. Relying on contemporary literary sources, this book also integrates historical and semantic approaches to an investigation of the visual language through which painting communicates with its viewers. It also offers a fresh perspective on the demography of Pompeii and the relationship between the colony and Rome as reflected in its wall painting.

• Interdisciplinary approach using evidence from Roman political and social life • Discussion of Roman life and art through literary sources • Special section drawing attention to Pompeian social demography


Introduction: the world's common property; 1. Domestic context; 2. Panels and porticoes; 3. The model of the scaenae frons; 4. Gardens and picture galleries; 5. The style of luxury; 6. Demography and decoration; Conclusion: beyond '79 in Rome and Campania.


'This is a formidable book. It contains an exhaustive search of ancient literature and a vast range of visual material. Despite the length and sheer amount of material, the clear, engaging style ensures that the reader remains involved and informed. In updating, and reflecting on, the story of Roman painting, it deserves to become the standard work on the subject for some time to come.' Art History

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