13 July 2011

Photo Essays: Roman Interior Decorating

Michelle Styles

One of my favourites bits about doing research is seeing how people lived. Sometimes, particularly with older time periods, this can be difficult. We can only speculate about the exact nature of Viking interior decoration for example. Even with early Regency or Victorian, the interiors have often changed as the houses were adapted to suit present curcumstances. Sometimes the interiors can be recreated but for the most part, we only see fragments. But for the Romans, there is a wonderful record in Pompeii and Herculaneum, saved from AD 79. So I thought I'd share some of the photos I took when I visited in 2008.

It is possible to see the painted interiors of houses. This one shows the seafront of Baiae and is from Pompeii.
Or this one (again from Pompeii) I love the snakes at the bottom.

And sometimes even the furniture -- a bed from Herculaneum Because of the way Mt Vesuvious erupted some of the wooden objects were preserved:
or a clothes press:

 or objects d'art such as this theatre mask (again from Herculaneum) Indeed this house seemed to have a theatre motif. So you have to wonder if the owners were actors or were simply in love with the theatre.
But what I think the most vibrant and evocative are the mosaics. Because they are made of tile, the mosaics are more likely to survive intact. They are still in use today. Thousands trample Roman mosiacs from Ostia on their way to see the Sistine chapel for instance.
This one is -- Beware of the dog! is from Pompeii and is in the front entrance way of a house.
And this one is from the baths in Herculaneum: Many of the mosiacs that are in commerical premises or open to the public seem to be in black and white.  Some of the tiling could be used in kitchens or fromt entrance halls today.

But I really like the coloured mosaics. This is one is from the theatre house in herculaneum.
The colours remain vibrant and look as if they could have been done in recent times. But then you notice the workmanship and subtle colour changes and you realise that they could only have been in Roman times. The skill of the Roman craftsman is long gone. Alas. But if you ever get a chance to see any Roman interior, go and see it.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances in a wide variety of time periods. Her most recent Roman set historical -- The Perfect Concubine was released as a Harlequin Historical Undone ebook in March 2011. Her most recent full length novel was set in the early Victorian period -- To Marry A Matchmaker and was published in July  2011 in both print and as an ebook. You can read more about Michelle's books on her website www.michellestyles.co.uk