Wall Fragment with Grotesques
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Roman, Boscoreale, Italy, about A.D. 70
60 5/8 x 16 15/16 in.

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While frescoes mimicking outdoor scenes were often painted to make rooms appear brighter and larger, this fresco is purely decorative. Vines and flowers intertwine, interspersed with animals and other decorative elements, all painted onto a red stripe.

Fresco painting was one of the most popular methods of wall decoration in ancient Rome. A wall would first be covered with fresh plaster. Pigments were then dissolved in water and applied to the wet plaster. The combination of minerals in the pigment and carbon dioxide in the air created a solid surface upon drying. Ancient fresco painting yields colorful, enduring works of art, which crack due to the settling of building walls.