Tuesday 14 April 2009

In Germany, an outpost of Pompeii shows its age

An interesting piece below about the condition of the Pompejanum of Aschaffenburg - a replica Pompeian villa built from 1843 - 50 by Ludwig I of Baveria. It's interesting to note that the Pompejanum suffers from the same problems of preservation as the ruins of Pompeii themselves.
Does anyone know whether the Pompejanum is based on a particular villa or is it just 'Pompeian-style'? There must be articles and books written about it - can anyone provide some bibliography?

So ancient is Europe that even a "new" building often seems as battered and worn as an "old" one. East of Frankfurt, restorers have struggled to remove the scars of nearly 160 years from a reproduction Roman villa which used to offer a vision of luxury living in the Italian city of Pompeii before a volcanic eruption on August 24 in 79 AD. ...
The Pompejanum was built in the German city of Aschaffenburg as a replica of a villa in Pompeii. The rich reds, intense blues and greens of its wall paintings are a shock to anyone expecting the dullness of the ancient ruins.
"The excavations were expanding during the reign of King Ludwig I of Bavaria," explained a Pompejanum art historian, Werner Helmberger.
Like many educated Europeans, Ludwig had made the Grand Tour to Italy and had been fascinated by the discoveries.
"He noticed how quickly the colourful Roman frescoes faded when they were brought to light," said Georg Fahrenschon, today's Bavarian finance minister, who oversaw funding of the replica's restoration. That gave him the idea of building a reproduction villa.
"He never intended to live there. Its purpose was to educate Bavarians about classical architecture," said Helmberger.
In 1843, Ludwig laid the foundation stone at Aschaffenburg, a town in the far north of his kingdom, and the replica with its colourful interior was completed in 1850. But within a century it was as much a ruin as Pompeii was.
During the Second World War, the US Army shelled Aschaffenburg. The walls of the Pompejanum were smashed and the frescoes lost. The building is close to the Main River, and dampness from the soil crept into what was left, worsening the damage, along with vandalism.
Teenagers lit campfires in the rooms or scratched hearts into the plaster. A bullet which remains impacted in the nose of the goddess Hera in a mosaic apparently dates from those violent days.
Restoration of this outpost of Campania began in the 1960s. In the decades since, fashions in historical preservation have regularly changed and each phase followed different principles. The last, intensive phase began in 1989.
In line with current principles that advocate showing a building's many phases, parts of the Pompejanum are fully restored to their 1848 state and others seem frozen in their state of war destruction in 1945.
The Housewife's Room, opened to the public this month when the work was completed, has largely grey walls, where the US shells wrecked the frescoes. They have only been restored at a few spots.
Restorer Armin Schmickl-Prochnow said: "We make a point of only using the materials of 2,000 years ago. They are simply earth pigments with some lime added to bond them."
Raimund Wuensche, head of the Bavarian state antiquities collection, said the 12.7 million euros (17 million dollars) spent since the 1960s on restoring the Pompejanum had been well worth it.
"It's a unique feeling here: the space, the frescoes, the culture, all in one place."
(source: Flickr. For more photos from Flickr, see here).

1 comment:

Massimo Betello said...

You can ask to Franscesca Tronchin, fellow blogger of this blog: she was one of the organizers of the RAC2009 section "Between Canon and Kitsch: Eclecticism in Roman Homes" during which at least one panelists mentioned some live scale replicas of Pompeian houses (in Paris and London though). The speaker in question was Shelley Hales (Bristol University). However, I did not go to the other panels of this same section ... somebody else might have mentioned the Pompejanum.

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