Did you know that an exceptionally high-quality, but totally unknown fresco has just been found in the world-famous archaeological site of Pompeii? It depicts a sensual erotic scene between the mythic queen Leda and Jupiter, the ancient god of thunders, in the unusual guise of a swan.
Don’t you believe? Keep reading!
54 UNESCO sites?
When people tell you that Italy represents the country with the largest number of UNESCO sites in the world, you probably don’t imagine that it’s possible to discover something new day by day. Counting 54 among cultural and natural gems officially sanctioned in the World Heritage List, you could think that everything is cataloged, already in the caring hands of researchers and archaeologists.
Well, it’s only partly true. Surprises are always just around the corner. For example, the third line of Rome’s subway has been still under construction for years, because of the continuous discovery of new interesting remains and surprising archaeological treasures. It was just last March that some evocative mosaics have emerged during works, unveiling an unknown second-century ancient Domus, probably the house of a military commander.
A new fresco in Pompeii
This week, instead, has been the turn of Pompeii. On Monday 19, some restoration works discovered an intriguing fresco in a little bedroom. It’s located in the same house as the recently found fresco where Priapus, the Roman god of fields and nature, weighs his genitalia, on the eastern side of Via del Vesuvio.
It probably follows the great model of the statue of Leda carved by the Greek artist Timotheus, in the 4 century BC. The aim was to magnify the social status of the owner “through references to high-level cultural myths” in his home, according to what we read on ANSA:
It is a “unique and interesting” representation of the Greek myth, the director of the archaeological park of Pompeii, Massimo Osanna, told ANSA on Monday. The large fresco is unique because of “its particular iconography, which is so explicit and sensual”, said Osanna, an image never seen in the ancient Roman town, where the story from Greek mythology was very well known.
The colorful lively characters of Leda and Jupiter reveal a double excellence. On one hand, they still show the impressive style of the artist who painted the fresco in 1 century AD, with Leda looking at the viewer.
On the other, they sadly highlight the paradoxical conservative power of that lethal rain of burning pumice stone, caused by the volcanic eruption of the nearby Vesuvio. Vesuvio killed all the inhabitants of Pompeii in 79 AD, but made also Pompeii one of the favorite destinations of travelers. Completely covered by volcanic lapilli, now this ancient city looks really like frozen in time.
Photo credits: @TheGuardian via www.theguardian.com, @TheNewYorkTimes, via www.nytimes.com