Pompeii Red Was Actually Yellow?

Martin Conde alerts us to an item in today’s Corriere della Sera (which hasn’t made it to the online version yet) in which it is suggested that gases from the eruption of Vesuvius altered the original ‘yellow’ to produce the famous ‘pompeiian red’ we associate with, inter alia, the Villa of the Mysteries. MC has put up a pdf of the article at his website … alternatively, you can see it in his flickr stream. We’ll see if this gets any coverage in the English part of the world … seems to be a pretty major discovery, if true. (I need more details; there is yellow in plenty of frescoes with ‘pompeii red’ … why didn’t it change?)

2 thoughts on “Pompeii Red Was Actually Yellow?

  1. I would have a hard time accepting this on purely aesthetic grounds. Compare how flesh tones are set against an overall yellow background in, for instance, the house of the Vetii with how flesh tones are set against an overall red background in the Villa of the Mysteries.

  2. Hummm, not sure if this is actually “new” discovery, although I don’t have any written sources to hand, certainly I have been told that the colours at the Villa of Oplontis and Herculaneum were affected by heat/chemical reactions of the eruption. I’m not sure it’s just yellow to red either, Barnabei talks about the black of the peristyle turning a buff colour at the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor (see Metropolitan Museum Acc.no.03.14.3). Specifically looking at the Villa of they Mysteries while there is clearly a lot of red going on there is also quite a bit of yellow too which begs the question why didn’t that change…

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