New technique reveals lost splendours of Herculaneum art

Ercolano, Italy, Oct 24 (AFP/APP): One of the best preserved Roman houses at Herculaneum reopened on Wednesday after more than 30 years, its exquisite paintings brought back to life thanks to a revolutionary new technique.

The three-storey House of the Bicentenary is perhaps the most beautiful noble house so far excavated from under the pyroclastic flow that entombed Herculaneum in the devastating 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius that also destroyed nearby Pompeii.

Although much smaller than its better known neighbour outside the southern Italian city Naples, Herculaneum was a wealthier town with more exquisite architecture, much of which is still to be uncovered.

Herculaneum was buried under at least 15 metres (almost 50 foot) of rock, much more than the around four metres of ash at Pompeii, which for years made Herculaneum less attractive to looters and archaeologists alike.

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The Bicentenary house, which also features stunning mosaics, gets its name from the fact that it was re-discovered in 1938, exactly 200 years after official excavations began at the site under the Bourbon monarchy.

The 600-square-metre (6,400-square-feet) building was closed to the public in 1983 as it began to fall apart, including its priceless wall paintings in the Tablinum, the room traditionally used by the father of the house for business and to receive clients.

Conservationists focused on two large mythological scenes, one of Venus and Mars and one of Daedalus and Pasiphae, and paintings of a variety of other Dionysian themes common to the homes of Herculaneum’s wealthy inhabitants.

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