Mural Paintings

Mural painting was carried out with the fresco technique, as the colors were applied directly on fresh plaster. The traces of the supports left on the back of the finds allowed to identify two types of fragments: one applied to the walls, the other to the ceilings. In both cases, the fragments presented two layers of plaster. The thickness of the ground layer varies from two to six centimeters. The fine layer, on which colors were applied, has a maximum thickness of one centimeter. The fragments from the vaults are the only ones that present the “arriccio” at the bottom, a yellowish layer obtained from a mix of quicklime and river silt. The back of the “arriccio” shows the traces of the straw lattice used to build the vault.
Various decorative typologies have been discovered as the restoration work proceeded. Fragments from the ceilings were recomposed in two small domes, each with a diameter of 60 centimeters and a depth of 70 centimeters. The center of each dome inclosed a floral motif on a blue fictive veil, decorated with red geometrical patterns on a white background.

Reassemblage of one of the domes

Other fragments from the ceilings recomposed an emblem with a male winged figure inclosed within a thick diamond frame.
The assemblage of the fragments and the reconstruction of the ensemble brought important results to archaeological studies. The early working hypotheses, formulated before restoration started, have been entirely revised. The archeologists had originally thought that the fragments of plaster with a curve section come from an apse. The assemblage of the fragments showed, instead, that the room was originally covered by a lacunar ceiling with emblems inclosing figures, such as the winged one, and was somehow completed by the two domes.

Winged Figure Geometrical Decoration Intertwined with Grapes

The restoration also revealed a second and earlier painted layer below the surface. In particular, it was possible to detect another winged figure below the one painted within the emblem. The two figures are not identical and cannot be superimposed, even though they show a similar posture.
The discovery brought to the formulation of two different hypotheses. The first suggested that the innermost painted layer included an earlier decoration that was replaced by the outermost layer at a later stage. This hypothesis is supported by the lack of a precise correspondence between the two figures and the different use of colors.
The second hypothesis proposed that the innermost layer was a “sinopia”, a preparatory layer, devised by the artist to transfer his decorative scheme on the large surface of the ceiling, before the final application of the colors on the outermost layer. This procedure allowed the artist to check the proportion of his figures and decoration before applying the colors on the fresh plaster. The fresco technique required that the artist followed a specific sequence of work. He covered portion of the innermost layer with fresh plaster on which he painted the decoration. Even though he was not able to see what was originally painted or drawn on the innermost layer, he was aware of the proportion of the figures or decorative motifs he was supposed to paint in the newly plastered area. Thus, according to this hypothesis the innermost figure served as a guide to paint the outermost winged figure with the raised arm within the emblem. This hypothesis is also corroborated by the circumstance that the innermost figure is painted in a rougher way than that on the outermost layer, showing detailed traits, better coloration and an Egyptian blue background. The lack of correspondence between the figures can be justified by the use of a more simplified scheme on the innermost layer, used only as a guide for painting on the outermost.
A third decorative scheme emerged from the assemblage of the fragments. This third type also pertains to a ceiling, originally mounted on a straw latticework. It does not include diamond shaped emblems, but plaited motifs intertwined with grapes. The fragments still show the traces of the cords snapped on the fresh plaster to trace the area of the pattern. This system allowed to distribute along a line a geometrical motif that was regularly reprised.
Other fragments show painted cornices and bands of various thickness and colors. They suggest that the room originally had a decoration of cornices inclosing colored fields, but it is not yet possible to establish the presence of figurative subjects except in one case. This latter includes a figure seated on a throne against a yellow background, inclosed within a frame.
At present, over 400 matching pieces have been found.

Watch how the Winged Figure was re-assembled

Watch how the fragments match browsing a pdf file