Wall Fragment with a Woman on a Balcony
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Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman

Roman, about 9 B.C. - A.D. 14
23 5/8 x 17 13/16 x 1 3/16 in.

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A young woman stands looking out from a balcony on this Roman fresco fragment. She sips from a shallow cup and steadies an oinochoe, or pitcher, on the balcony railing. The identity of the woman remains uncertain. She may be a highborn daughter relaxing in her home, or she may be a servant girl avoiding her chores. Another interpretation is that the woman alludes to a famous work of the Greek painter Pausias made in the 300s B.C. that depicted Methe, the personification of drunkenness.

This fresco is only a small fragment cut from an entire wall of painted decoration. The color scheme used on the fragment associates it with the so-called Second Style of Roman wall painting, a style that used illusionistic architecture to create a three-dimensional effect. This fragment is probably from the upper zone of a small dining room, or triclinium. The right-to-left shadows cast by the bosses on the railing indicate that this painting originally decorated the right-hand wall of the room as one entered it.