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Beautiful Roman Frescoes Uncovered in the South of France

Detail of one of the newly discovered Roman murals at Bouches-du Rhône (all images courtesy Département des Bouches du Rhône)
Detail of one of the newly discovered Roman murals at Bouches-du Rhône (all images courtesy Département des Bouches du Rhône)

PARIS — In the Bouches-du Rhône in Arles, archaeologists have uncovered a sumptuous ancient treasure in what remains of a Roman villa dating from the 1st century BCE (when Arles was known as Arelate). These previously unknown Roman frescoes (in the second Pompeian style) are speculated to contain images of Pan, one of the members of the entourage of Bacchus, the god of wine, who was frequently represented in ancient Roman homes.

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An image of a woman playing an harp is one of the most impressive Roman paintings discovered in Arles.

After spending more than 2,000 years largely underground, the colors are still shimmering, according to reports.

The Arles fresco shows 11 images in total, including one notable fragment that depicts a female musician who plays a stringed instrument resembling a harp, which is depicted in rich Egyptian blues and vermilion pigments.

But these images are only pieces of a vast mural puzzle that archaeologists will patiently rebuild in an assembly that will take years. They come from what was probably the ceremonial room of a luxurious home. The work demonstrates a level of artistic mastery that experts are convinced that it was made by one or more artists from present-day Italy.

Experts at the National Institute of Preventive Archaeological research (Inrap) compare the images to those found in the villa of Boscoreale and the famous Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, the ancient Roman town near Naples that was preserved under lava from an eruption of the Vesuvius volcano.

A detail of another mosaic discovered in Arles, France.
A detail of another mosaic discovered in Arles, France.

 

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