Wall Fragment with a Nile Landscape
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Roman, about A.D. 70
Plaster and pigment
18 x 14 15/16 x 1 1/2 in.

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Foreground details indicate this waterscape's exotic locale. At the right, a small thatched hut and a scraggly palm tree contrast with the elaborate architecture of the background. A crocodile advances, about to attack a pygmy in a small boat. Pygmies, as well as dwarves, were popular and humorous subjects in Hellenistic and Roman art.

This fragment of a Roman wall painting depicts the annual flooding of the Nile River in Egypt. In the first century B.C., landscapes became a common subject for the painted walls of Roman private homes. Roman landscape painting derived from topographical painting for map illustration, which had developed in Hellenistic Alexandria. Beginning with the annexation of Egypt in 31 B.C. and continuing into the first century A.D., Egyptianizing subjects became popular in Roman art.