Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

 

Lamb of God

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

The presbytery.

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Mosaic of Theodora

 

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Apse mosaic.

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Triumphal arch mosaics of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Mosaics of Justinianus I and Theodora.

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

 

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

Giacobbe Giusti, Basilica of San Vitale

The “Basilica of San Vitale” is a church in Ravenna, Italy, and one of the most important examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Europe. The Roman Catholic Church has designated the building a “basilica”, the honorific title bestowed on church buildings of exceptional historic and ecclesial importance, although of course it is not of architectural basilica form. It is one of eight Ravenna structures inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

History

The church was begun by Bishop Ecclesius in 526, when Ravenna was under the rule of the Ostrogoths and completed by the 27th Bishop of Ravenna, Maximian, in 547 preceding the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna.

The construction of the church was sponsored by Julius Argentarius, a Roman banker and architect, of whom very little is known, except that he also sponsored the construction of the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe at around the same time.[1] (A donor portrait of the Julius Argentarius may appear among the courtiers on the Justinian mosaic.) The final cost amounted to 26,000 solidi (gold pieces).[2]

The central vault used a western technique of hollow tubes inserted into each other, rather than bricks. The ambulatory and gallery were vaulted only later in the Middle Ages.[3]

The Baroque fresco on the dome was made between 1778 and 1782 by S. Barozzi, U. Gandolfi and E. Guarana.[4]

Architecture

Ground plan of the building
Mosaics of Justinianus I and Theodora.

The church has an octagonal plan. The building combines Roman elements: the dome, shape of doorways, and stepped towers; with Byzantine elements: polygonal apse, capitals, narrow bricks, and an early example of flying buttresses. The church is most famous for its wealth of Byzantine mosaics, the largest and best preserved outside of Constantinople. The church is of extreme importance in Byzantine art, as it is the only major church from the period of the Emperor Justinian I to survive virtually intact to the present day. Furthermore, it is thought to reflect the design of the Byzantine Imperial Palace Audience Chamber, of which nothing at all survives. The belltower has four bells, the tenor one dates to the 16th century. According to legends, the church was erected on the site of the martyrdom of Saint Vitalis.[5] However, there is some confusion as to whether this is the Saint Vitalis of Milan, or the Saint Vitale whose body was discovered together with that of Saint Agricola, by Saint Ambrose in Bologna in 393.

Mosaic art

The presbytery.
Triumphal arch mosaics of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

The interior of San Vitale

The central section is surrounded by two superposed ambulatories. The upper one, the matrimoneum, was reserved for married women. A series of mosaics in the lunettes above the triforia depict sacrifices from the Old Testament:[6] the story of Abraham and Melchizedek, and the Sacrifice of Isaac; the story of Moses and the Burning Bush, Jeremiah and Isaiah, representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the story of Abel and Cain. A pair of angels, holding a medallion with a cross, crowns each lunette. On the side walls the corners, next to the mullioned windows, have mosaics of the Four Evangelists, under their symbols (angel, lion, ox and eagle), and dressed in white. Especially the portrayal of the lion is remarkable in its ferocity.

The cross-ribbed vault in the presbytery is richly ornamented with mosaic festoons of leaves, fruit and flowers, converging on a crown encircling the Lamb of God. The crown is supported by four angels, and every surface is covered with a profusion of flowers, stars, birds and animals, including many peacocks. Above the arch, on both sides, two angels hold a disc and beside them a representation of the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. They symbolize the human race (Jerusalem representing the Jews, and Bethlehem the Gentiles).

All these mosaics are executed in the Hellenistic-Roman tradition: lively and imaginative, with rich colors and a certain perspective, and with a vivid depiction of the landscape, plants and birds. They were finished when Ravenna was still under Gothic rule. The apse is flanked by two chapels, the prothesis and the diaconicon, typical for Byzantine architecture.

Inside, the intrados of the great triumphal arch is decorated with fifteen mosaic medallions, depicting Jesus Christ, the twelve Apostles and Saint Gervasius and Saint Protasius, the sons of Saint Vitale. The theophany was begun in 525 under bishop Ecclesius. It has a great gold fascia with twining flowers, birds, and horns of plenty. Jesus Christ appears, seated on a blue globe in the summit of the vault, robed in purple, with his right hand offering the martyr’s crown to Saint Vitale. On the left, Bishop Ecclesius offers a model of the church.

Justinian and Theodora panels

Apse mosaic.
The mosaic of Emperor Justinian and his retinue.

Empress Theodora and attendants.

Ceiling mosaic above the presbytery.

At the foot of the apse side walls are two famous mosaic panels, executed in 547. On the right is a mosaic depicting the East Roman Emperor Justinian I, clad in Tyrian purple with a golden halo, standing next to court officials, Bishop Maximian, palatinae guards and deacons. The halo around his head gives him the same aspect as Christ in the dome of the apse. Justinian himself stands in the middle, with soldiers on his right and clergy on his left, emphasizing that Justinian is the leader of both church and state of his empire.

The gold background of the mosaic shows that Justinian and his entourage are inside the church. The figures are placed in a V shape; Justinian is placed in the front and in the middle to show his importance with Bishop Maximian on his left and lesser individuals being placed behind them. This placement can be seen through the overlapping feet of the individuals present in the mosaic.[7]

Another panel shows Empress Theodora solemn and formal, with golden halo, crown and jewels, and a train of court ladies. She is almost depicted as a goddess. As opposed to the V formation of the figures in the Justinian mosaic, the mosaic with Empress Theodora shows the figures moving from left to right into the church. Theodora is seen holding the wine.

See also

External video
Lamb of God (San Vitale).jpg
Byzantine Art: San Vitale, Ravenna, Smarthistory[8]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_San_Vitale

http://www.giacobbegiusti.com

 

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

 

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA
Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

Saracen arches and Byzantine mosaics complement each other within the Palatine Chapel

The Palatine Chapel (Italian: Cappella Palatina), is the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily situated on the first floor at the center of the Palazzo Reale in Palermo, southern Italy.

Also referred to as a Palace church or Palace chapel,[1] it was commissioned by Roger II of Sicily in 1132 to be built upon an older chapel (now the crypt) constructed around 1080. It took eight years to build, receiving a royal charter the same year, with the mosaics being only partially finished by 1143.[1] The sanctuary, dedicated to Saint Peter, is reminiscent of a domed basilica. It has three apses, as is usual in Byzantine architecture, with six pointed arches (three on each side of the central nave) resting on recycled classical columns.

Mosaics

mosaic in the Palatine Chapel

The mosaics of the Palatine Chapel are of unparalleled elegance as concerns elongated proportions and streaming draperies of figures. They are also noted for subtle modulations of colour and luminance. The oldest are probably those covering the ceiling, the drum, and the dome. The shimmering mosaics of the transept, presumably dating from the 1140s and attributed to Byzantine artists, with an illustrated scene, along the north wall, of St. John in the desert and a landscape of Agnus Dei.[2] Below this are five saints, the Greek fathers of the church, St. Gregory of Nissa, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom and St. Nicholas.[2] The three central figures, St. Gregory, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, allude to the Orthodox cult known as the Three Hierarchs, which originated fifty years earlier.[2] Every composition is set within an ornamental frame, not dissimilar to that used in contemporaneous mosaic icons.

Giacobbe Giusti, CAPPELLA PALATINA

Roger II of Sicily depicted on the muqarnas ceiling in an Arabic style.

The rest of the mosaics, dated to the 1160s or the 1170s, is executed in a cruder manner and feature Latin (rather than Greek) inscriptions. Probably a work of local craftsmen, these pieces are more narrative and illustrative than transcendental. A few mosaics have a secular character and represent oriental flora and fauna. This may be the only substantial passage of secular Byzantine mosaic extant today.

Chapel

Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicily

Muqarnas, a common element in Arabic architecture

The chapel combines harmoniously a variety of styles: the Norman architecture and door decor, the Arabic arches and script adorning the roof, the Byzantine dome and mosaics. For instance, clusters of four eight-pointed stars, typical for Muslim design, are arranged on the ceiling so as to form a Christian cross.

Other remarkable features of the chapel include the muqarnas ceiling, which is spectacular. The hundreds of facets were painted, notably with many purely ornamental vegetal and zoomorphic designs but also with scenes of daily life and many subjects that have not yet been explained. Stylistically influenced by Iraqi ‘Abbasid art, these paintings are innovative in their more spatially aware representation of personages and of animals.

The chapel has been considered a union of a Byzantine church sanctuary and a Western basilica nave.[3] The sanctuary, is of an “Eastern” artistic nature, while the nave reflects “Western” influences.[3]

Nave

The nave, constructed under Roger II, did not contain any Christian images.[4] These were added later by Roger II’s successors, William I and William II.[4] The nave’s ceiling consists of Greek, Latin and inscriptions.[3]

The frame for the royal throne sets against the west wall of the nave.[5] There are six steps leading up to where the throne would be, along with two heraldic lions in two roundels upon the spandrels over the throne frame gabel.[5]

Sanctuary

As an expression of Norman culture, St. Dionysius and St. Martin are represented in the sanctuary.[6] Mosaics are of Byzantine culture in their composition and subjects.[7] The apex of the dome consists of the Pantokrator, with rows of angels, prophets, evangelists and saints.[7] The Byzantine motif ends abruptly with scenes from Christ’s life along the south wall of the southern transept arm, while the north wall consists of warrior saints.[7]

Analysis

Slobodan Ćurčić considers the Palatine Cappella a reflection of Middle Byzantine art.[5] Illustrating architectural and artistic genius to juxtapose Sicily’s “melting pot” culture.[8]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cappella_Palatina#CITEREF.C4.86ur.C4.8Di.C4.871987

La chiesa ipogea

http://www.giacobbegiusti.com

Giacobbe Giusti, “Garden of Eden” mosaic in mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Giacobbe Giusti, “Garden of Eden” mosaic in mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Ceiling mosaic Garden of Eden.

 

Giacobbe Giusti, “Garden of Eden” mosaic in mausoleum of Galla Placidia

The Good Shepherd.

Giacobbe Giusti, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

 
Ravnna-gallaplacidia.jpg

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Location Ravenna, Italy Edit this at Wikidata
 
Criteria Cultural: (i), (ii), (iii), (iv) Edit this on Wikidata
Reference 788-001
Inscription 1996 (20th Session)
Website www.ravennamosaici.it
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is located in Italy

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
Location of Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a Roman building in Ravenna, Italy. It was listed with seven other structures in Ravenna in the World Heritage List in 1996.[1] The UNESCO experts describe it as “the earliest and best preserved of all mosaic monuments, and at the same time one of the most artistically perfect”.

History

Interior view, showing the southern lunette.

Ceiling

The building was formerly the oratory of the Church of the Holy Cross and now contains three sarcophagi. The largest sarcophagus was thought to contain the remains of Galla Placidia (died 450), daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. Her embalmed body was reportedly deposited there in a sitting position, clothed with the imperial mantle. In 1577, however, the contents of the sarcophagus were accidentally burned. The sarcophagus to the right is attributed to Galla’s son, Emperor Valentinian III, or to her brother, Emperor Honorius. The one on the left is attributed to her husband, Emperor Constantius III.

The building is not currently used as a mausoleum. It is unknown what the building was intended for when it was built. The most common story is that the structure was built by Galla Placidia, who was a well-known patron of the arts, to be used as a mausoleum for her and her family. There seems to be no evidence to prove or disprove Galla’s connection to the building. The mausoleum was once connected to the narthex of Santa Croce, the church for the imperial palace, built in 417 but now in ruins. Santa Croce was one of the first buildings commissioned by Galla. The floor has been raised by five feet since the fifth century in order to remain above the rising water along the upper Adriatic coast.

Architecture and interior art

Ceiling mosaic Garden of Eden.

Mosaics cover the walls of the vault, the lunettes and the cupola. The iconographic themes developed in the decorations represent the victory of eternal life over death. The mausoleum is laid out in a cruciform floor plan, with a central dome on pendentives and barrel vaults over the four transepts. The exterior of the dome is enclosed in a square tower that rises above the gabled lateral wings. The brick surface is set with narrow mortar joints and decorated with blind arcades.

The interior of the mausoleum is covered with rich Byzantine mosaics, and light enters through alabaster window panels. The inside contains two famous mosaic lunettes, and the rest of the interior is filled with mosaics of Christian and Apocalyptic symbols. The central bay’s upper walls are decorated with four pairs of apostles, including St. Peter and St. Paul, acclaiming a giant gold cross in the center of the dome against a blue sky of stars. Symbols of the four evangelists float among the clouds. The other four apostles appear in the barrel vaults of the transepts.

The lunette over the north entrance shows a mosaic of Christ as the Good Shepherd tending his flocks. He holds an imperial staff joined to the Christian cross, symbolizing the combined earthly and heavenly domains. The lunette over the south wall is thought to depict St. Lawrence standing next to a flaming gridiron. On the opposite side of the gridiron a bookcase is shown with four books, each inscribed with the name of an evangelist.

The art historian Gillian Mackie argues that this panel represents the Spanish St. Vincent of Saragossa rather than the Italian St. Lawrence.[2] Mackie cites Galla’s connection to Spain; in addition, St. Vincent was martyred by drowning at sea, and Galla and her children had been delivered from shipwreck. The panel seems to be an illustration of the poem about St. Vincent in Prudentius’s fifth century Passio Sancti Vincent Martyris. In the poem St. Vincent is ordered to disclose his sacred books to be burned. This explains the cupboard containing the Gospels, which has no satisfactory explanation in the story of St. Lawrence.

Good Shepherd Mosaic

The Lunette of Christ as Good Shepherd over the north entrance is representative of Christian art at this time period in late antiquity. Christ is being depicted as more regal than prior depictions of him as good shepherd. Rather than carrying a lamb over his shoulder, Jesus sits amongst his flock, haloed and robed in gold and purple. The mosaic represents a transition period between the naturalistic depictions of the classical period in art history and the stylized representations of the medieval period. The forms still have three-dimensional bulk, but the shading such as in the folds of the robes is less refined than in the past, and figures are not very grounded. Elements of realism have been sacrificed for a focus on the spiritual elements

Musical associations

External video
LawrenceRavenna.jpg
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Smarthistory[3]

The mausoleum is reputed to have inspired American songwriter Cole Porter to compose “Night and Day” while on a 1920s visit.[4]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mausoleum_of_Galla_Placidia?uselang=fr

http://www.giacobbegiusti.com

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa Medicea La Petraia

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa Medicea La Petraia

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa Medicea La Petraia

Médaillon de Giusto Utens, Museo di Firenze com’era

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa Medicea La Petraia

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa Medicea La Petraia

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa Medicea La Petraia

Villa La Petraia gardens, Florence, Italy

Villa La Petraia gardens, Florence, Italy

 

La Villa Medicea La Petraia est une villa médicéenne qui se situe dans la zone collinaire du Castello, au 40 de la Via Petraia 40 à Florence.

Histoire

En 1364, le palagio della Petraia appartenait à la famille Brunelleschi. En 1422, Palla Strozzi l’a acquis en lui ajoutant les terres adjacentes. Au XVIe siècle, la villa devint la propriété des Salutati, qui la vendent ensuite à Cosme Ier de Médicis qui, en 1544, la donne à son fils, le cardinal Ferdinand en 1568.

Les travaux d’embellissement de 1566 furent étendus par Ferdinand, devenu Grand-duc en 1587, qui le transforma en une résidence digne d’un Prince. En 1589, la villa est assignée à son épouse Christine de Lorraine pour ses noces. La villa passe sous l’apanage de Don Antonio de Médicis en 1609.

Sous la Maison de Savoie, elle devint la résidence du roi Victor Emmanuel II et de Rosa Vercellana, son épouse morganatique.

Depuis 1919, elle fait partie des biens de l’état.

Jardin

Son jardin à l’italienne a été dessiné par Le Tribolo ainsi que sa Florence sortant des eaux sculptée par Jean de Bologne

Lieu de conservation

Dans ses dépôts est conservé la Sémiramis (1623-1625) de Matteo Rosselli, un des quatre tableaux consacrés à la vie des femmes célèbres qui décoraient la salle d’audience de la grande-duchesse Marie-Madeleine d’Autriche dans la Villa di Poggio Imperiale[1].

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Medicea_La_Petraia

http://www.giacobbegiusti.com

Giacobbe Giusti, Boy with Thorn

Giacobbe Giusti, Boy with Thorn

 

IW-Spinario-Musei-Capitolini-07

Giacobbe Giusti, Boy with Thorn

IW-Spinario-Musei-Capitolini-03

Giacobbe Giusti, Boy with Thorn

Boy with Thorn, also called Fedele (Fedelino) or Spinario, is a Greco-Roman Hellenistic bronze sculpture of a boy withdrawing a thorn from the sole of his foot, now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome. A Roman marble of this subject from the Medici collections is in a corridor of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.[1]

The sculpture was one of the very few Roman bronzes that was never lost to sight. It was standing outside the Lateran Palace when the Navarrese rabbi Benjamin of Tudela saw it in the 1160s and identified it as Absalom, who “was without blemish from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”[2] It was noted in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century by the English visitor, Magister Gregorius, who noted in his De mirabilibus urbis Romae that it was ridiculously thought to be Priapus.[3] It must have been one of the sculptures transferred to the Palazzo dei Conservatori by Pope Sixtus IV in the 1470s, though it is not recorded there until 1499-1500.[4] It was celebrated in the Early Renaissance, one of the first Roman sculptures to be copied: there are bronze reductions by Severo da Ravenna and Jacopo Buonaccolsi, called “L’Antico” for his refined classicizing figures: he made a copy for Isabella d’Este about 1501[5] and followed it with an untraced pendant that perhaps reversed the pose. For a fountain of 1500 in Messina, Antonello Gagini made a full-size variant, probably the bronze that is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Giacobbe Giusti, Boy with Thorn

Roman marble copy, c.25 – 50 CE, of the lost 3rd century BCE Hellenistic original of the type. From the Castellani collection, Rome, said to have been found on the Esquiline. The base of the statue is worked as a rock, with a hole for a fountain pipe. (British Museum)[6]

In the sixteenth century, bronze copies made suitably magnificent ambassadorial gifts to the King of France and the King of Spain. For Francis I of France, the gift came from Ippolito II d’Este;[7] his copy was overseen by Giovanni Fancelli and Jacopo Sansovino, and the transaction effected by the courtly Benvenuto Cellini. For Philip II of Spain, the copy was the gift of Cardinal Giovanni Ricci. In the following century Charles I of England had a bronze Spinario by Hubert Le Sueur (Haskell and Penny 1981: 308).

Small bronze reductions were suitable for the less grand. A Still Life with ‘Spinario’ by Pieter Claesz, 1628, is conserved at the Rijksmuseum; among the riches emblemmatic of the good life, it displays a small plaster model of the Spinario.[8]

There were also marble copies. The Medici Roman marble seems to have been among the collection of antiquities assembled in the gardens at San Marco, Florence, which were the resort of the humanists in the circle of Lorenzo il Magnifico, who opened his collection to young artists to study from. The young Michelangelo profited from this early exposure to antique sculpture, and it has been discussed whether Masaccio was influenced by the Medici Spinario or by the bronze he saw in Rome in the 1420s,[9] but Filippo Brunelleschi more certainly adapted the Spinario’s pose for the left-hand attendant in the bronze competition panel, The Sacrifice of Isaac 1401, his trial piece for the doors of the Baptistery of San Giovanni.[10]

The formerly popular title Il Fedele (“The faithful boy”) derived from an anecdote invented to give this intimate and naturalistic study a more heroic civic setting: the faithful messenger, a mere shepherd boy, had delivered his message to the Roman Senate first, only then stopping to remove a painful thorn from his foot: the Roman Senate commemorated the event. Such a story was already deflated in Paolo Alessandro Maffei’s Raccolta di statue antiche e moderni… of 1704[11]

Taking into account Hellenistic marble variants that have been discovered, of which the best is the Thorn-Puller from the Castellani collection now in the British Museum,[12] none of which have the archaizing qualities of the bronze Spinario, recent scholarship has tended to credit this as a Roman bronze of the first century CE, with a head adapted from an archaic prototype.[13]

 

http://www.italianways.com/lo-spinario-ragazzo-con-mistero/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_with_Thorn

http://www.giacobbegiusti.com

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa of the Papyri

 

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa of the Papyri

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa of the Papyri

 

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa of the Papyri

 

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa of the Papyri

Giacobbe Giusti, Villa of the Papyri

The Villa of the Papyri (Italian: Villa dei Papiri, also known as Villa dei Pisoni), is named after its unique library of papyri (or scrolls), but is also one of the most luxurious houses in all of Herculaneum and in the Roman world.[1] Its luxury is shown by its exquisite architecture and by the very large number of outstanding works of art discovered, including frescoes, bronzes and marble sculpture[2] which constitute the largest collection of Greek and Roman sculptures ever discovered in a single context.[3]

It is located in the current commune of Ercolano, southern Italy. It was situated on the ancient coastline below the volcano Vesuvius with nothing to obstruct the view of the sea. It was perhaps owned by Julius Caesar‘s father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus.[4]

Plan of Herculaneum and the location of the Villa

In AD 79, the eruption of Vesuvius covered all of Herculaneum with some 30 m of volcanic ash. Herculaneum was first excavated in the years between 1750 and 1765 by Karl Weber by means of underground tunnels. The villa’s name derives from the discovery of its library, the only surviving library from the Graeco-Roman world that exists in its entirety.[5] It contained over 1,800 papyrus scrolls, now carbonised by the heat of the eruption, the “Herculaneum papyri“.

Most of the villa is still underground, but parts have been cleared of volcanic deposits. Many of the finds are displayed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

The Getty Villa is a reproduction of the Villa of the Papyri.

Layout

Ground Plan showing location of tunnels(brown)

Drunken Satyr, villa dei papiri

Aeschines, villa dei papiri, museo archeologico, Napoli

Sited a few hundred metres from the nearest house in Herculaneum, the villa’s front stretched for more than 250 m along the coastline of the Gulf of Naples. It was surrounded by a garden closed off by porticoes, but with an ample stretch of gardens, vineyards and woods down to a small harbour.

It has recently been ascertained that the height of the main floor in antiquity was no less than 16 metres above sea level, and the villa had four architectural levels underneath the main floor, arranged in terrasses overlooking the sea.[6]

The villa’s layout is faithful to, but enlarges upon, the architectural scheme of suburban villas in the country around Pompeii. The atrium functioned as an entrance hall and a means of communication with the various parts of the house. The entrance opened with a columned portico on the sea side.

The first peristyle had 10 columns on each side and a swimming pool in the centre. In this enclosure were found the bronze herma of Doryphorus, a replica of Polykleitos‘ athlete, and the herma of an Amazon made by Apollonios son of Archias of Athens.[7] The large second peristyle could be reached by passing through a large tablinum in which, under a propylaeum, was the archaic statue of Athena Promachos. A collection of bronze busts were in the interior of the tablinum. These included the head of Scipio Africanus.[1]

Dancers, da villa dei papiri, peristilio quadrato

The living and reception quarters were grouped around the porticoes and terraces, giving occupants ample sunlight and a view of the countryside and sea. In the living quarters, bath installations were brought to light, and the library of rolled and carbonised papyri placed inside wooden capsae, some of them on ordinary wooden shelves and around the walls and some on the two sides of a set of shelves in the middle of the room.[1]

The grounds included a large area of covered and uncovered gardens for walks in the shade or in the warmth of the sun. The gardens included a gallery of busts, hermae and small marble and bronze statues. These were laid out between columns amid the open part of the garden and on the edges of the large swimming bath.[1]

Resting Hermes

Ptolemy Apion

fresco, Villa dei Papiri

Works of Art

The luxury of the villa is evidenced not only by the many works of art, but especially by the large number of rare bronze statues found there, all masterpieces. The villa housed a collection of at least 80 sculptures of magnificent quality,[8] many now conserved in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.[1] Among them is the bronze Seated Hermes, found at the villa in 1758. Around the bowl of the atrium impluvium were 11 bronze fountain statues depicting Satyrs pouring water from a pitcher and Amorini pouring water from the mouth of a dolphin. Other statues and busts were found in the corners around the atrium walls.[1]

Five statues of life-sized bronze dancing women wearing the Doric peplos sculpted in different positions and with inlaid eyes are adapted Roman copies of originals from the fifth century BC. They are also hydrophorai drawing water from a fountain.

Epicureanism and the library

The owner of the house, perhaps Calpurnius Piso, established a library of a mainly philosophical character. It is believed that the library might have been collected and selected by Piso’s family friend and client, the Epicurean Philodemus of Gàdara – although his conclusion is not certain[4][9] Followers of Epicurus studied the teachings of this moral and natural philosopher. This philosophy taught that man is mortal, that the cosmos is the result of accident, that there is no providential god, and that the criteria of a good life are pleasure and temperance. Philodemus’ connections with Piso brought him an opportunity to influence the young students of Greek literature and philosophy who gathered around him at Herculaneum and Naples. Much of his work was discovered in about a thousand papyrus rolls in the philosophical library recovered at Herculaneum. Although his prose work is detailed in the strung-out, non-periodic style typical of Hellenistic Greek prose before the revival of the Attic style after Cicero, Philodemus surpassed the average literary standard to which most epicureans aspired. Philodemus succeeded in influencing the most learned and distinguished Romans of his age. None of his prose work was known until the rolls of papyri were discovered among the ruins of the Villa of the Papyri.[4]

Papyrus recovered from Villa of the Papyri.[1]

At the time of the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, the valuable library was packed in cases ready to be moved to safety when it was overtaken by pyroclastic flow; the eruption eventually deposited some 20–25 m of volcanic ash over the site, charring the scrolls but preserving them— the only surviving library of Antiquity— as the ash hardened to form tuff.[1]

Excavation

The Bourbon excavations were halted in 1765 due to complaints from the residents living above. The exact location of the villa was then lost for two centuries.[10] In the 1980s work on re-discovering the villa began by studying 18th century documentation on entrances to the tunnels and in 1986 the breakthrough was made through an ancient well. The backfill from some of the tunnels was cleared to allow re-exploration of the villa when it was found that the parts of the villa that survived the Bourbon robbers were still remarkable in quantity and quality.

Excavation to expose part of the villa was done in the 1990s and revealed two previously undiscovered lower floors to the villa[11] with frescoes in situ. These were found along the southwest-facing terrace of about 4 metres height. The first row of rooms lying below the arcade was eveidenced by a series of rectangular openings along the façade.

Limited excavations recommenced at the site in 2007 to preserve the remains when beautifully carved parts of wood and ivory furniture were discovered. Since then limited public access became available.

As of 2012, there are still 2,800 m² left to be excavated of the villa. The remainder of the site has not been excavated because the Italian government is preferring conservation to excavation, and protecting what has already been uncovered.[12] David Woodley Packard, who has funded conservation work at Herculaneum through his Packard Humanities Institute, has said that he is likely to be able to fund excavation of the Villa of the Papyri when the authorities agree to it; but no work will be permitted on the site until the completion of a feasibility report, which has been in preparation for some years. The first part of the report emerged in 2008 but included no timetable or cost projections, since the decision for further excavation is a political one.[13] Politics involve excavation under inhabited areas in addition to unspecified but reported[14] references to mafia involvement.

Using multi-spectral imaging, a technique developed in the early 1990s, it is possible to read the burned papyri. With multi-spectral imaging, many pictures of the illegible papyri are taken using different filters in the infrared or in the ultraviolet range, finely tuned to capture certain wavelengths of light. Thus, the optimum spectral portion can be found for distinguishing ink from paper on the blackened papyrus surface.

Non-destructive CT scans will, it is hoped, provide breakthroughs in reading the fragile unopened scrolls without destroying them in the process. Encouraging results along this line of research have been obtained, which use Phase-contrast X-ray imaging. [15] [16] [17] [18] According to authors, “this pioneering research opens up new prospects not only for the many papyri still unopened, but also for others that have not yet been discovered, perhaps including a second library of Latin papyri at a lower, as yet unexcavated level of the Villa.”[19]

J. Paul Getty Museum

Bronze bust of Scipio Africanus, mid 1st century BC, found in the Villa of the Papyri

The original “Getty Villa“, part of the J. Paul Getty Museum complex at Pacific Palisades, California is a free replication of the Villa of the Papyri, as it was published in Le Antichità di Ercolano. This museum building was constructed in the early 1970s by the architectural firm of Langdon and Wilson. Architectural consultant Norman Neuerburg and Getty’s curator of antiquities Jiří Frel worked closely with J. Paul Getty to develop the interior and exterior details. Since the Villa of the Papyri was buried by the eruption and much of it remains unexcavated, Neuerburg based many of the villa’s architectural and landscaping details on elements from other ancient Roman houses in the towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae.[20]

With the move of the Museum to the Getty Center, the “Getty Villa” as it is now called, was renovated; it reopened on January 28, 2006.

In modern literature

Several scenes in Robert Harris‘ bestselling novel Pompeii are set in the Villa of the Papyri, just before the eruption engulfed it. The villa is mentioned as belonging to Roman aristocrat Pedius Cascus and his wife Rectina. (Pliny the Younger mentions Rectina, whom he calls the wife of Tascius, in Letter 16 of book VI of his Letters.) At the start of the eruption Rectina prepares to have the library evacuated and sends urgent word to her old friend, Pliny the Elder, who commands the Roman Navy at Misenum on the other side of the Bay of Naples. Pliny immediately sets out in a warship, and gets in sight of the villa, but the eruption prevents him from landing and taking off Rectina and her library — which is thus left for modern archaeologists to find.

Sculpture from the Villa

Giacobbe Giusti, BEATO ANGELICO: Crucifixion with Saints

Giacobbe  Giusti, BEATO ANGELICO: Crucifixion with Saints

 

Détail : groupe des quatre Marie.

Détail : médaillon du bas représentant Giovanni Dominici.

Détail : saint Thomas d’Aquin.

Détail : saint Benoît de Nursie.