Paintings and Mosaics

Emblema from Baccano, Charioteer of the Green (Prasina) faction, 3rd c. CE

On the second floor of the museum are exhibited frescoes, mosaics and inlaid works of high value.

The triclinium (dining room) with the painted garden from the Villa of Livia and the rooms of the Villa of the Farnesina, evocatively reconstructed in their original dimensions, constitute an example of the domestic decoration of prestigious roman dwellings.

A large display of pavement mosaics, mostly polychrome, culminates in the emblemata of the Villa of Baccanus.

Noteworthy among the fine intarsia decorations are the inlaid stones from the Basilica of Junius Bassus.

The Painted Garden of the Villa of Livia

Garden paintings from the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta (30-20 BCE)

This lush painted garden covered the walls of a semi-subterranean chamber, probably a cool triclinium (dining room) for summer banquets, in the suburban Villa of Livia Drusilla, the wife of Augustus.

This Second style fresco, the most ancient example of continuous garden painting (30 - 20 BCE), presents a variety of plants and birds rendered in a naturalistic way.

Many are the botanical species identified: in the foreground, the umbrella pine, the oak, the red fir; beyond a marble enclosure grow apple quinces, pomegranates, myrtles, oleanders, date palms, strawberry trees, laurels, viburnums, holm oaks, box trees, cypresses, ivy and acanthus.

In the meadow under the trees bloom roses, poppies, chrysanthemums and chamomile, while along the footpaths in the foreground, ferns alternate with violets and irises.

The Frescoes from the Villa of the Farnesina

Fresco from the Villa of the Farnesina. From Roma, via della Lungara, 30-20 BCE

The Villa of the Farnesina, sumptuous residence of the Augustan age, was brought back to light in Trastevere in 1879, during the regulation works of the banks of the Tiber.

The remains of the Villa were only partially explored and then destroyed, but the elevated quality of the decorations required the salvage of the frescoes, mosaics and stuccoes, since preserved in the Museo Nazionale Romano. In the exhibition space of Palazzo Massimo the stripped decorations have been recomposed within rooms of the original dimensions.

The goal was to recreate, to the extent possible, the sequence of the visual perceptions of the Ancient age, walking through the long gallery of the cryptoporticus (hidden portico) as far as the garden, on which faced the winter triclinium (dining room) and two cubicola (bedchambers) with vermillion walls, thence reaching, through another corridor, a third cubiculum. 

The diverse references to the Egyptian world present in the decorations of the villa can be read as a celebration of the conquest of Egypt. In fact the owner of the residence is probably, according to reliable hypotheses, to be identified as the general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa himself, author of the victory at Actium. The frescoes, exemplars of the great painting of the Imperial age in Rome, are ascribable to the final phase of the Second style.