Ancient Pompeii painting restored
House of Small Fountain fresco gets makeover31 March, 18:35
The three-month renovation of the mural, which adorns the walls of the once luxurious House of the Small Fountain, has removed dirt, brightened the colours and reinforced the surface.
"Returning this extraordinary work to Pompeii and to all those who love art and this utterly unique site fills us with pride," said Ledo Prato, head of the private cultural organization that funded the restoration, the Cittitalia Foundation. Pompeii Emergency Commissioner Marcello Fiori, who attended the inauguration, thanked the foundation for its valuable contribution and stressed the growing need for private and public bodies to join forces in order to "make the most of this extraordinary heritage". The fresco has a decorative border at the top of the painting and a yellow base running along the bottom.
The central painting depicts a landscape next to the sea, with many of the original details still visible. The precise brush strokes used to describe tree leaves, small people and even the architectural features on tiny porticoed colonnades are still clear. Prior to the renovation, the mural had come away from the supporting wall in various parts, largely as a result of movement in the underlying stonework. In addition, damp had penetrated the wall from the outside.
This was not only causing the plaster to start crumbling at various points but also resulted in small spots of mould and mineral deposits.
A third problem for restorers were sections of cement plaster added in the 1960s to provide additional support but now causing distortions in the painting. The operation, carried out by Francesco Esposito under the supervision of the Pompeii Archaeology Superintendent's Office, not only restored the colours but also dried out the mural, reaffixed it to the wall, proofed it against further damp and removed the cement plaster. The House of the Small Fountain was one of a series of elegant homes not far from the forum originally unearthed during excavations in 1827.
The villa, whose wealthy owner remains unknown, was built in the middle of the 1st century AD, about a quarter of a century before the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius smothered Pompeii in larva and ash.
The house takes its name from its exquisite garden fountain, decorated with statues and brilliantly coloured mosaics.