The J. Paul Getty Museum

Wall Fragment with a Peacock

Object Details


Wall Fragment with a Peacock






Italy (Place Created)


A.D. 1–79



Object Number:



40 × 24.8 × 3.2 cm (15 3/4 × 9 3/4 × 1 1/4 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

Preserved from a larger composition covering an entire wall, this Roman fresco fragment depicts a naturalistically rendered, brightly colored peacock perched on a fence or railing. The bird is blue and black on the breast and neck, with a red body and crest.  A pink shield decorated with red ribbons is suspended above. The fragment closely resembles a detail from the upper register of a room in the House of Siricus at Pompeii, which supports the likelihood that this too was originally from one of the cities destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The painting style, categorized by scholars as Fourth Style, is the last style of Roman wall painting, and combines the spatial vistas of the Second Style with the fantastic architecture of the Third Style. It was popular from approximately 63 B.C. until A.D. 79, when Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed.

Native to India, peacocks were imported into Rome and bred there as sacred animals, exotic pets, and extravagant delicacies to be served at fashionable banquets. They became a popular subject for painters. In addition to being sacred to the goddess Juno and living in her sanctuaries, these extremely expensive birds were also kept in gardens of the rich as an indication of wealth. Inspired by the zoological gardens of Eastern and Hellenistic kings, Romans often decorated garden walls with frescoed scenes that created the illusion of greater space. Painted peacocks, fountains, and statues made gardens appear more luxurious. It is in this context that the peacock depicted in this fresco probably appeared.

- 1968

Spink & Son, Ltd. (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1968.


Vermeule, Cornelius, and Norman Neuerberg. Catalogue of the Ancient Art in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973), p. 50, no. 108, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Appointment Calendar (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1981), cover.

Fernandez, I. G. "J. Paul Getty Museum." Revista de Arqueologia 115 (1990), p. 55, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 224.

Di Mauro, Alberto. Italy Art LA, educational brochure (Los Angeles: Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, 2012), p. 25.

Hovaguimian, Vroni. Images and Words (North Charleston: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015), p. 36, ill.