Roman Landscapes: Visions of Nature and Myth from Rome and Pompeii is the first exhibition in the United States to explore landscape scenes as a striking new genre of ancient Roman art. These works depict a fascinating yet imaginary vision of a countryside dotted with seaside villas and rural shrines, where gods and mythological heroes mingle with travelers, herdsmen and worshippers. The exhibition features 65 wall paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and cameo glass and silver vessels created in Roman Italy between 100 B.C. and A.D. 250.
The exhibition introduces visitors to the cultural and archaeological contexts of Roman landscapes, beginning with mural paintings and relief sculptures that depict coastal villas and rustic shrines. These works display the imaginary aspects of Roman images of the natural world and connect the genre’s appearance to the political and social upheaval of the late Republic and early Empire. Paintings and sculptures from houses in Pompeii and nearby villas on the Bay of Naples show how landscape scenes decorated lavish Roman residences and their gardens. Fantastical views of Egypt and Greece reflect ancient fascination with these celebrated lands incorporated into the Roman Empire. Mythological paintings then reveal landscape scenes as settings for hazardous encounters between humans and the gods. Roman Landscapes closes by comparing wall paintings from communal tombs in Rome with those from houses and exploring the adaptation of landscape imagery for funerary settings. The exhibition also highlights the artistic conventions that distinguish Roman landscape scenes, including their fluid, almost “impressionistic” brushwork and the use of bird’s-eye perspective.
Roman Landscapes is presented exclusively at the San Antonio Museum of Art. The exhibition features works lent by museums in Italy, France, and Germany, many of which have never before been shown in the United States. The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue published by the San Antonio Museum of Art.