The eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the tragedy of the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum have been the focus of historians for hundreds of years. Ash and volcanic rock covered the Bay of Naples from 79 CE until excavations began in the 1700s, revealing beautifully preserved artifacts and works of art.
On display right now at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art through Oct. 17, The Painters of Pompeii: Roman Frescoes from the National Archaeological Museum, Naples showcases 80 artifacts and artworks including 70 frescoes that were painted on the walls of homes and public buildings. This is the first time a selection like this has traveled to North America, offering a special opportunity to see ancient art right here in Oklahoma.
Pompeii and Herculaneum were popular vacation destinations for Roman elite and their vacation homes were decorated with richly colored frescoes, mosaics and reliefs. The exhibition pairs the paintings and pieces by different artists together to better illustrate different interpretations of stories and legends that were often the chosen style of the time.
The two-thousand-year-old pieces are incredibly detailed and remarkably preserved and the exhibition helps museum guests understand the purpose and meaning behind the works of art and how these artifacts were part of life in the first century.
While the exhibition is best suited for older kids, teens and adults, younger kids might enjoy taking a sketchbook along with them and the museum has those on hand. There is also a video tour of an excavation site and books that offer additional hands-on learning opportunities.
As a complement to the exhibition, OKCMOA is offering tours led by museum staff, sharing insights into the Roman antiquities and what happened to the cities. August tours are sold out but September and October tours are available for reservations, but museum staff expects those to fill up soon too.
Another unique feature at the museum right now is Café Pompeii, an Italian-inspired, fast-casual pop-up restaurant housed inside the museum’s café. Families can engage their sense of taste to sample another aspect of Italian artistry. Café Pompeii by Patrono serves soups, salads and pasta as well as light bites, cocktails, beer and wine.
Café Pompeii shares the same hours as the Museum and will be open through Oct. 17.