ANCIENT GREECE AND ITALY.

Although ancient writers had spoken of landscape paintings, it was not until 1848-1850, when a series of them was discovered on the Esquiline in Rome, that any very satisfactory specimens could be shown. These pictures number eight: six are complete, of the seventh but half remains, and the eighth is in a very imperfect state. They may be called historical landscapes, because each one has a complete landscape as well as figures which tell a story. They illustrate certain passages from the Odyssey of Homer. The one from which our cut is taken shows the visit of Ulysses to the lower world. When on the wall the pictures were divided by pilasters, and finished at the top by a border or frieze. The pilasters are bright red, and the chief colors in the picture are a yellowish brown and a greenish blue. In this scene the way in which the light streams through the entrance to the lower world is very striking, and shows the many figures there with the best possible effect. Even those in the far distance on the right are distinctly seen. This collection of Esquiline wall-paintings is now in the Vatican Library.

Fig 8 Fig. 8.—Landscape Illustration to the Odyssey. From a wall-painting discovered on the Esquiline at Rome.

Besides the ancient mural paintings which have been placed in the museums of Rome, there are others which still remain where they were painted, in palaces, villas, and tombs. Perhaps those in the house of Livia are the most interesting; they represent mythological stories, and one frieze has different scenes of street life in an ancient town. Though these decorations are done in a mechanical sort of painting, such as is practised by the ordinary fresco painters of our own time, yet there was sufficient artistic feeling in their authors to prevent their repeating any one design.

One circumstance proves that this class of picture was not thought very important when it was made, which is that the name of the artist is rarely found upon his work: in but one instance either in Rome or Pompeii has this occurred, namely, in a chamber which was excavated in the gardens of the Farnesina Palace at Rome, and the name is Seleucus.

We have not space to speak of all the Italian cities in which these remains are discovered, and, as Pompeii is the one most frequently visited and that in which a very large proportion of the ancient pictures have been found, I will give a few illustrations from them, and leave the subject of ancient, mural paintings there. Many of the Pompeian pictures have been removed to the Museum of Naples, though many still remain where they were first painted.

The variety of subjects at Pompeii is large: there are landscapes, hunting scenes, mythological subjects, numerous kinds of single figures, such as dancing girls, the hours, or seasons, graces, satyrs, and many others; devotional pictures, such as representations of the ancient divinities, lares, penates, and genii; pictures of tavern scenes, of mechanics at their work; rope-dancers and representations of various games, gladiatorial contests, genre scenes from the lives of children, youths, and women, festival ceremonies, actors, poets, and stage scenes, and last, but not least, many caricatures, of which I here give you an example (Fig. 9).

Fig 9 Fig. 9.—The Flight of Æneas.
From a wall-painting.

The largest dog is Æneas, who leads the little Ascanius by the hand and carries his father, Anchises, on his shoulder. Frequently in the ancient caricatures monkeys are made to take the part of historical and imaginary heroes.

Fig10 Fig. 10.—Demeter Enthroned.
From a Pompeian wall-painting.

 

Fig 11 Fig. 11.—Pompeian Wall-painting.

Fig. 11 shows you how these painted walls were sometimes divided; the principal subjects were surrounded by ornamental borders, and the spaces between filled in with all sorts of little compartments. The small spaces in this picture are quite regular in form; but frequently they are of varied shapes, and give a very decorative effect to the whole work. The colors used upon these different panels, as they may be called, were usually red, yellow, black, and white—more rarely blue and green. Sometimes the entire decoration consisted of these small, variously colored spaces, divided by some graceful little border, with a very small figure, plant, or other object in the centre of each space.