Thursday, 22 November 2012

First impressions: ROOM 0 (entrance)

The house of Orpheus is presently closed to the public, probably because of the fragility of the surviving frescoes (progressively detaching from the masonry, possibly due to humidity and infiltrations).

House of Orpheus, looking west from the entrance
Photo by M. Amodio, 1850-60. Fratelli Alinari Collection
The house is not huge but still quite big, definitely above the average of a Pompeian dwelling. It is not situated in the very centre of the city but it is still close enough to the latter to be considered the residence of a quite rich family.
It has a relatively wide entrance with a pronounced slope, going up. This is the place where the Mosaic of the Guard  Dog used to be.
It was probably the first thing that visitors and passers by were supposed to see. But I will write more about the mosaic and its context later.
The entrance’s corridor is not straight. This is not strange in Pompeian houses and could be a strategy for the architect to lead the gaze of the observer towards the most important features of the house and to highlight their best qualities.
From the street, the view included the mosaic and, going up, the beautiful and very well preserved impluvium: white marble, a nice ridge, many details, a central hole that suggests a fountain, a marble pedestal that could have held a decorative element or an other water feature (possibly both). Behind the pedestal, there is what looks like a well, also made of elegant white marble
At the back of the water feature, the gaze falls on the large tablinum and the garden. Nicely framed by the entrance to the garden, it is possible to see the famous fresco with Orpheus and the animals. Probably, more than the mythological scene, the observer from the street was invited to look at a combination of real and painted natural elements: plants, birds and the water sources. The decorative element that might have been placed on the pedestal could have been another element of this part real and part illusional scenography.

According to my perception, the architectonical structure looks very harmonic and well balanced.

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