Pompeii, Its Life and Art

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Bastille - Pompeii (Lyrics)

This book made Mau's name and still provides the starting point for any analysis of Roman wall painting. Mau and Kelsey became good friends. Their friendship was marked by a long correspondence, by Mau's help in Michigan's acquisition of a collection of Latin inscriptions from Naples, and by a collaboration that resulted in Kelsey's translation and edition of Mau's Pompeji in Leben und Kunst Kelsey and his publisher worked so quickly that the English version of the book appeared before the German: Pompeii, Its Life and Art Macmillan, The two scholars worked on a second edition, signing the preface at Pompeii on August 2, Kelsey was preparing a third edition at the time of his death.


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This book remains an important source and has recently been made available in electronic form. Two volumes of a set of eight.

Pompeii, Its Life and Art by August Mau

Personal copies of F. Kelsey Museum Library.

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Kelsey with extensive marginal notes, Kelsey Museum Library. Many exhibitions on Pompeii have concentrated on the terror of its last hours. A show at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford celebrates life through food: the wine, olive oil, fruit and vegetables from the fertile slopes around the town; the reeking fish sauce added to all savoury dishes; the goats, rabbits and chickens immortalised in wall paintings; the food shared with guests in magnificent banquets or bought from fast-food shops in the street; and the food offered to the gods or sent into eternity with the dead.

The exhibition includes around objects, with remarkable loans coming from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli and sites around the volcano, many leaving Italy for the first time.

Pompeii Its Life and Art

Among these are fine sculptures, frescoes and mosaics, but also touchingly prosaic objects such as a carbonised loaf placed in the bakery oven on that last morning, and a glass jar of solidified olive oil, which when its stopper is removed still has a faint grassy scent. Chicken bones in a pot were exposed for the first time in 2, years in the rooftop laboratory of the Ashmolean, as the conservator Alexandra Baldwin chipped away tiny flakes of corrosion with a scalpel.


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The small bronze pot came in a load of shabby cookware from the Naples museum, all originally from a modest taverna grandly known as The House of the Lararium of Hercules, which had a takeaway counter by the street and a small more formal dining area in the garden. It is the first time Naples has allowed an outside museum to carry out conservation work on its artefacts.

Several were repaired with lead or neat riveted metal patches, and a kettle gained a new lid crudely cut down from a larger vessel with a nail hammered through for a handle. To him, the battered pots and the evidence of unending work that went into feeding the Roman town are personal. Moved by the copious evidence of last meals being prepared for rich and poor across the site, he has no time for the theory that Pompeii was half deserted by AD79, a ghost town after an earlier earthquake: upstairs from a brothel, one of the most famous buildings, a stew of onions and beans was being prepared for the workers.

Pompeii Its Life and Art Mau August | Pompeii | Volcano

Roberts relishes a mosaic from a dining room floor, coming from Naples. It shows a grinning skeleton carrying two wine jugs. The main sponsor of the exhibition is the Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo.