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Pompeian Decoration & Ornament

The ornaments which are given on Plate XXIII., and which have evidently a Greek character, are generally borders on the panels, and are executed with stencils. They have a thinness of character compared with Greek models, which show a marked inferiority; we no longer find perfect radiation of lines from the parent stem, nor perfect distribution of masses and proportional areas. Their charm lies in an agreeable contrast of color, which is still further heightened when surrounded with other colors in situ.

Collection of Borders from different Edifices in Pompeii
Collection of Borders from different Edifices in Pompeii, Plate XXIII.

The ornaments from pilasters and friezes on Plate XXIV., after the Roman type, are shaded to give rotundity, but not sufficiently so to detach them from the ground. In this the Pompeian artists showed a judgment in not exceeding that limit of the treatment of ornament in the round, altogether lost sight of in subsequent times. We have here the acanthus leaf scroll forming the groundwork, on which are engrafted representations of leaves and flowers interlaced with animals, precisely similar to the remains found in the Roman baths, and which, in the time of Raphael, became the foundation of Italian ornament.

Pilasters and Friezes
Pilasters and Friezes, Plate XXIV.

In Plate XXV. we have gathered together all the forms of mosaic pavement, which was such a feature in every home of the Romans, wherever their dominion extended. In the attempt at relief shown in several of the examples, we have evidence that their taste was no longer so refined as that of their Greek teachers. The borders, formed by a repetition of hexagons at the top and the sides of the page, are the types from which we may directly trace all that immense variety of Byzantine, Arabian, and Moresque mosaics.

Mosaics from Pompeii and the Museum at Naples
Mosaics from Pompeii and the Museum at Naples, Plate XXV.

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