The J. Paul Getty Museum

Wall Panel from a Black Ground Frescoed Room

Object Details


Wall Panel from a Black Ground Frescoed Room






Boscoreale, Italy (Place Created)

Villa of N. Popidius Florus, Cubiculum 4, Boscoreale, Italy (Place Found)


A.D. 1–50



Object Number:



247 × 130 cm (97 1/4 × 51 3/16 in.)

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Object Description

One of three fresco panels that decorated the same room (Room 4) of the Villa of Numerius Popidius Florus at Boscoreale (see also 72.AG.79.1 and 72.AG.79.2). These frescoes display fanciful architectural compositions on a black background. A figural scene on a yellow background decorates the center of this fresco. The seated man’s unkempt beard, scanty clothing, bare feet, and staff suggest that he is a philosopher of the Cynic school, noted for asceticism and disregard for social norms. He converses with a woman who is probably a courtesan. Some scholars have also identified the pair as Socrates and Diotima, a character who teaches Socrates the philosophy of love in Plato’s Symposium. The painting style, categorized by scholars as the Third Style of Roman wall painting, features small vignettes and elegant ornamental architecture.

The Villa of Numerius Popidius Florus was built in the early first century B.C., and underwent several modifications before it was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. A variety of objects were found in Room 4, including bronze vessels, lamps, agricultural tools and the remains of iron weaponry, suggesting that it was used for storage by the time of the eruption. Two marble plaques found in the central courtyard reveal the name of the owner, who came from a well-established family in Pompeii. In contrast to the urban houses of Pompeii and the seaside villas overlooking the Bay of Naples, however, the country estates (or villae rusticae) of Boscoreale were working farms. The estate of Numerius Popidius Florus produced wine, which was stored in large jars partially buried in the courtyard. The house itself was richly decorated with frescoes and mosaics and had a small bath complex. Excavated in 1905–1906, the site was subsequently reburied after most of the wall paintings, vessels, and other objects were removed.


Found: Villa of N. Popidius Florus, Cubiculum 4, Boscoreale, Italy (first recorded in Zurlo-Pulzella 1906)

1906 -

Giovanna Zurlo-Pulzella (Boscoreale, Italy), excavated on the family property in 1906.

by 1968 - 1970

Elie Borowski, Polish, 1913 - 2003 (Basel, Switzerland), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1970.


Zurlo-Pulzella, Giovanna. La villa de N. Popidius Florus. Fouillee par Mme. Zurlo a Boscoreale (Pisanella). 1906, pl. VIII.

Della Corte, M. "Scavi eseguiti da privati nel territorio Pompeiano," Notizie degli Scavi 1921, pp. 415-467, pp. 447-49; fig. 14.

Lehmann-Hartleben, Karl. "Archaeologische Funde in den Jahren 1921-1924," Archaeologischer Anzeiger 41, 1 (1926), Beiblatt, cols. 11-235, cols. 141-142; fig. 24.

Schefold, Karl. "Lachendes Pompeji," Gymnasium 67 (1960), pp. 90-102, p. 92; pl. 4.

Schefold, Karl. Vergessenes Pompeji. Bern: 1962, p. 95; pl. 172, 1.

Vermeule, Cornelius, and Norman Neuerberg. Catalogue of the Ancient Art in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973), pp. 42-43, no. 93, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), p. 41.

Oettel, A. Fundkontexte romischer Vesuvvillen im Gebiet um Pompeji. Die Grabungen von 1894 bis 1908. (Philipp von Zabern: Mainz, 1996), pp. 250-251, cat. no. 21/5c.