Spatial References and Three-dimensionality in the 4th Pompeian Style


The dissertation project analyzes pictorial worlds of Roman dwellings on the basis of five case studies. The aim of the work is a comprehensive analysis of the changing relationships between architecture, wall painting, decoration and the recipients. The focus is on the decorations of the 3rd and 4th style, with emphasis on the various combination options of all decorative elements and possible regularities. In previous archaeological research, the paintings were primarily regarded as two-dimensional works and reduced to the central mythical images, only rarely including the surrounding ornaments. However, it is precisely the three-dimensionality and the associated dynamics of the paintings that have great expressive power, which manifests itself, for example, in spatial references and pictorial quotations. Based on this starting point, the various perceptual options of all the painted pictures in the selected houses will be examined, always under the premise that perception is conceived through an interaction between the subjects in the space and the medium - thus aspects such as color scheme, application height, the play with angles of view, and the intended movement in the space will also be taken into account. The multisensory potential of the paintings will also be included in the analysis, based on the assumption that the murals not only address visual perception, but can also exert an auditory as well as olfactory stimulus on an ideational level. The thesis that statements of the room, as well as of the whole house are not only defined by the mythical images, but only become possible and graspable through the interaction of all decorative elements, will be tested for the chosen houses under the mentioned aspects. This results in a summary of the following questions: To what extent are the Pompeian wall paintings of the 3rd and 4th styles part of an overarching practice of interactive, multisensory perception? And can we conclude from this that there is a cross-spatial communication between the thematic worlds? To what extent can the perceptual options of these quotations within a past lifeworld be reconstructed from a modern perspective?

Project Responsible: Adrienne Cornut, Basel Studies of the Ancient World Start Fellowship (2019-2020).