The False-Door: dissolution and becoming in Roman wall-painting

Maurice Owen

    Research output: Creative Practice OutputsWeb publication/site


    This on-line publication examines the interaction between ancient Roman wall-painting and the modern world and challenges many of the accepted theories concerning their original meaning, function and social context. Since their discovery in the lava buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the mid-eighteenth century, the wall-paintings have directly and indirectly shaped the cultural landscape of the modern world. This publication also systematically examines many of the post rediscovery filters that have skewered our understanding of the paintings in their original context. A typical example being Hollywood's melodramatic appropriation of Roman culture, supposedly predicated upon discoveries made at Rome and Pompeii, but in fact derived from nineteenth-century melodramatic sources, such as Giovanni Pacini's Opera, Karl Briullov's painting and Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novel, all of which were entitled The Last Days of Pompeii. The research also argues against the commonly held belief that the paintings were purely decorative ? a misconception largely caused by their influence upon eighteenth-century neoclassicism and decorative imagery associated with the early industrial revolution. Having critiqued existing theories, the book proposes a radically new analysis of the sophisticated perspectival systems found in the paintings and their relationship to Roman atavistic and apotropaic beliefs, held in conjunction with practices that determined social status. Research for this publication was supported by AHRC, Southampton Solent University's Art and Design Capability Fund, the British School of Art and Archaeology Rome and various archaeological authorities in Italy. It is one of the first publication in 250 years to analyse the symbolic content of Roman wall-painting. Publications have hitherto primarily focused on purely formal issues or contextualised the paintings in relation to display and status.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2010


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