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Villa of the Mysteries


So as well as Art History I also am fascinated with the ancient world particularly with Rome and Greece.  Last semester I took a Classics paper that combined my two loves Art History and Ancient History.  The Villa of the Mysteries is a house outside of the ancient city of Pompeii and in one of the rooms are wall paintings with scenes that relate to an ancient mystery cult.  The use of the room is uncertain but is thought to be used for weddings and women rituals.

This is part of the first wall scene and reads from left to right.  The belief of the paintings illustrating a cult partly comes from the women holding a plate which could be a part of a sacrifice.  She also has a garland on her head which is involved in a religious ritual.  The women walks towards a group of women out of shot who also have garlands and look to be pouring libation which is 'wine to the gods'.
This shows the corner of the first and second wall and the story the paintings are telling start to become mythical.  The male figure on the harp is a Silenus figure who was a follower of the god Dionysus who was the god of wine.  The god himself is possibly pictured as the leaning figure against a female whose identity is unknown but is believed to be Ariadne who was Dionysus's wife.  The reasoning of it being of Dionysus is the fact that lying on his lap is what looks to be a Thyrsus, his wand/staff.  The depiction of the couple is to show marital bliss a possible indication the rooms use for a marital ritual.  The figure behind the Silenus holds a theatre mask which corresponds to Dionysus also being the god of theatre.
While the definition of the paintings are not entirely clear it is still a fascinating room in terms of its decoration with the colour and how well the figures are done.  This artwork gives us a glimpsed into ancient Rome and shows what they were capable of in terms of art.

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