Sunday, May 23, 2010

Livia's Villa

One of the most astonishing rooms in the National Museum of Rome is the reconstruction of the triclinium of Livia (wife of Augustus). The triclinium is an underground room at her villa at Prima Porta, 38 BC. You may remember the poisonously scheming, older Livia of I, Claudius, the British TV series. Here we get a glimpse of just what a sophisticated woman she was in her private life.
The room was built below ground level to allow the young empress to escape the summer heat of Rome. All of the walls are painted to evoke an eternal summer's afternoon. An orchard of apple trees is pictured above, laden with fruit and delicate birds. Blooming flowers dazzle behind a low wicker fence.
Here's a detail from the picture above -- just to show the subtlety of the painting.
Scholars suggest that the garden in simultaneous, perpetual flower and fruition, represents love and fecundity.What a fabulous idea perfectly realized.

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