Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Domus Aurea

Here are some images of the magnificent Domus Aurea or Golden House, with frescoes by Fabullus (variously, Famullus or Amulius) in Pompeiian style showing an incredible abundance of grottesque ornament. The discovery and excavation of these ruins led to the popularization by artist's such as Filippino Lippi and Raphael (in the Vatican Loggia) of the style known as Grottesca.

It's interesting to me how we have come to perceive of artwork such as this through a lens foggy with the patina of age. Our modern taste tends to prefer the aged look of the frescoes as they appear now, and generally considers the original coloration a little too gaudy. The artist who created these images applied his Neo-Classical artistic license for sure, but no doubt they would have appeared very brightly colored when first painted.

These paintings are the work of Marco Carloni who, along with architect Vincenzo Brenna and Polish painter Francesco Smuglewicz, was commissioned around 1774 to illustrate the interior decor.

The present images belong to a unique series of prints now at the Louvre, which were colored entirely in bright gouache. It is not known if they were a singular set from a later edition of Vestigia delle Terme di Tito e Loro Interne Pitture, issued by Carletti. Bibiophiles (and Italian speakers) can download a pdf of that book here.