Friday, April 01, 2005

Scene originally adorning triclinium in Livia's villa

Scene from Livia's triclinium 1
Scene from Livia's triclinium 1, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
One entire room of the National Museum is adorned with a mural of an orchard of apple trees laden with fruit and delicate birds that once embellished the underground triclinium of Livia's villa in Prima Porta. These frescoes are considered among the best conserved illustrations of an ancient Roman garden.

"Apart from the statue of Augustus, the most well-known find from the Villa of Livia are the spectacular garden frescoes, often referred to in works on Roman painting. Once attached to the walls of a large underground room measuring 5 x 11 metres, these frescoes were moved to the National museum in 1955. Currently under restoration,they are hopefully soon to be displayed in the new museum in Palazzo Massimo. The frescoes exhibit not so much a cultivated garden as a subtle flourishing landscape, rich in trees, flowers and birds of all kinds. In this image, some scholars want to see direct links to the Ara Pacis Augustae and the general pictorial programme of nature and fertility in Augustan art.

In the foreground we find a low wickerwork fence running around the whole room;behind this comes a grassy walk, bordered on its far side by a stone parapet. This stone enclosure have recesses at some points for single trees — one pine, one oak and four spruces. The background consists of a great variety of vegetation, where the laurel is omnipresent in different shapes, ranging from shrubs to tall trees. In the midst of the leaves, nightingales, oriols, magpies, swallows, blackbirds and many more spieces of birds can be identified. According to ancient sources, Augustus owned a talking magpie, as well as a raven and a parrot. More important is the fact that all the flowers in the fresco bloom simultaneously and can directly be associated with love and fecundity. In the age of Ovid'™s Metamorphoses, the motif of the fresco can be seen as a celebration of Augustan perpetual peace" - Prima Porta: Villa of Livia, Uppsala University.

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