An exhibition of erotic art in the city of Pompeii in Italy unveils a different side to the famous visitor attraction
Entitled Art and Sensuality in the Houses of Pompeii, an exhibition of erotic art is showcasing another side of the Italian city to visitors.
An eruption of Mount Vesuvius covered the city of Pompeii in flaming ash and burning fragments of pumice stone way back in 79 CE, but things have gotten hot again with the new exhibition.
Scheduled to run until January 2023, it brings together 70 provocative paintings, sculptures and other decorative erotica that have been salvaged from across the 66-hectare archaeological site. The organisers have revealed that many of the finds were discovered either during recent excavations or had been stored secretly in Naples, Italy. This is supposed to have been done at the directive of Neapolitan monarch King Charles VII, who had first paid for the excavation of the site.
Originally, only those deemed to be of good moral standing were permitted a sight of these erotic works, but now anyone with a ticket to the exhibition may marvel at these finds.
Erotic treasures include paintings from the city brothel (from which customers could pick services), a restored bedroom ceiling fresco of a naked Leda – queen of Sparta – with a swan depicting the god Zeus as a swan on her lap; a massive sculpture of the god Priape’s penis (then a commonly-found Roman symbol of fertility found in private courtyards) on a statue fountain; two medallions decorated with cavorting nymphs and sartyrs found on a Roman chariot used by religious women; and a candleholder with a male adolescent lamp bearer that gives Greek homoeroticism a nod.
Sited in the western portico of the Large Palaestra, the exhibition guides visitors through a perfect Pompeian home, and offers them an opportunity to see where sensual beauty would have been on display in the household. They will also find erotic scenes taken from the bedrooms of the Villa of Carmiano, and a series of faded images of a couple in the throes of intercourse.
To add to the experience, the My Pompeii app allows visitors to find erotic artworks across the site, and the organisers have also created a guide to help children discover the topic in a more age-appropriate way – The Centaurs of Pompeii follows a centaur Mares as he tries to find a partner.
A visit to the exhibition is included in the admission price (about Rs 1,400) to the Pompeii site.
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