Image, Space, and Social Ritual: The ‘Second Style’ Decorations of the House of the Cryptoporticus at Pompeii Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Raabe, Ashleigh W.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Art and Art History
  • This dissertation analyzes the Second Style decorations (c. 40-30 BC) from the House of the Cryptoporticus in Pompeii, focusing on the roles the paintings played in the performance of daily social rituals enacted by the house's occupants and visitors in the late Republican period. The decorations, and especially the understudied wall paintings, acted as important `set pieces' in the performance of rituals that were vital to the social standing and influence of the patron of the house and his family. I discuss these decorations in terms of both their social and physical contexts, situating them within the complicated building history of the house. The decorations are linked through themes of leisure and luxury, all located in rooms used for the reception of guests. Yet, more than just being appropriate for such spaces, I demonstrate that the decorations, together with the architecture, played an active role in the practice of specific social rituals (strolling, bathing, and dining) that took place in those spaces. I use textual, archeological, and pictorial evidence to approximate a Roman viewer's experience of and interaction with the painted walls during such activities: investigating individual images (their antecedents, variants, comparanda), how the images worked with other images in the same room, how the decoration of a room operated with regards to the architectural and other physical factors, how the decoration functioned in the context of the activities that took place in that space, and finally how the decorated spaces were linked through within the larger building matrix. In the House of the Cryptoporticus, the wall paintings, mosaics, and stucco were not mere `background' to the social performances and rituals that took place in the decorated rooms, but were active agents in these rituals. Together the architecture and decoration created not just spaces of reception, but spaces of encounter for the ancient Roman viewer.
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  • In Copyright
  • Sturgeon, Mary C.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013

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