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Leda and the Swan fresco discovered in Pompeii

'Unique and exceptional' portrait in bedroom, says Osanna

(ANSA) - Rome, November 19 - A sensual and explicit portrait of Leda, the beautiful queen of Sparta whose body is only partly covered by a golden cloth, being seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan has been discovered in a small bedroom in Pompeii.
    It is a "unique and interesting" representation of the Greek myth, the director of the archaeological park of Pompeii, Massimo Osanna, told ANSA on Monday. The large fresco is unique because of "its particular iconography, which is so explicit and sensual", said Osanna, an image never seen in the ancient Roman town, where the story from Greek mythology was very well known.
    The fresco is "of very high quality", stressed the director.
    It also appears to be inspired by the Leda of great Greek sculptor Timotheus from the 4th century BC.
    Archaeologists and restorers are now cleaning the fresco, whose magnificent colors - the deep red of the background , the pink that makes the beauty of Leda explosive and the white palette of the swan seducing her as she looks on - have been preserved magnificently from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago.
    The fresco, explained Osanna, was discovered during restoration work as part of one of the EU-funded projects in the Regio V sector of the ancient Roman city. The painting was discovered inside the same home on the eastern side of Via del Vesuvio where a fresco of Priapus weighing his genitalia was found last summer, Osanna said.
    The Priapus decorated the entrance hall of the home while the small bedroom where the portrait of Leda was discovered is behind a large hall.
    The home was very luxurious, full of high-impact décor, although its owner is still unknown.
    The director of Pompeii said he was likely a "rich merchant, possibly a former slave who was anxious to elevate his social status through references to high-level cultural myths". In order to preserve the site, the other rooms of this rich home, however, will not be brought to light.
    Technicians are evaluating whether to move the two frescoes to a different location in order to preserve them and exhibit them to the public, Osanna said.


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