The Fragment of a Fresco is dated to 50-25 B.C., generally categorizing it into the Second Period of Roman paintings and placing its creation during the time of transition of Rome from a Republic to an Empire. This particular fresco was discovered in Pompeii, which is considered one of the leading sites of such pieces of art. While many Roman frescos throughout all four styles depict scenes of historical importance in both military and cultural aspects, this particular piece, Fragment of a Fresco, provides more of an architectural and interior design quality than that of other pieces from this time period.
The Fragment of a Fresco is a piece that is perfectly balanced with equal proportions divided directly in the center. It is an illusionary view shown through two panels that appear as green tinted glass. Within these panels are scenes of the world outside as if looking through a window. Looking into the left panel, one can see a square temple with ornamental sculpture surrounding the roof. An intricately designed columned porch runs deep alongside the temple. In front of the temple at the base of the panel, is a group of men or boys displaying gestures of joy and happiness. The right panel is filled with a cluster of various buildings including a round temple. The depicted buildings display a view of the elevation and complexity of the design of the city. The buildings are painted using an elaborately layered style that utilizes shadows to show the depth of the city. The upper portions of both panels have faded to the point that the scenes are completely obscured. Directly surrounding both panels is a red border that is plain and non-decorative. Dividing the fresco into the two individual panels that we see is a decorative trim. This trim is a maroon color and is decorated with an alternating pattern consisting of floral and round designs. Flanking the outside side of both panels are elaborate bronze columns. The column on the left is ribbed and displays similarities to a Doric column. The column on the right however, lacks ribs and instead is covered with floral designs. Due to the coarse of time and exposure to the elements of nature, the Fragment of a Fresco does reveal it’s age. Slight cracking runs throughout the piece and small sections of fading are obviously apparent.
The artist painted this piece using plaster with pigment. This technique is accomplished by applying a mixture of pigments and limewater to a wall before the plaster dries. A final coat of volcanic ash and wax was added to complete the fresco. The artist consciously depicted the scenes with a strong sense of reality. The square temple on the left panel as well as the round temple and other various buildings on the right panel appear precisely in their natural environment. This fresco exhibits characteristics commonly associated with works classified in the period of the Second Style. Both panels are filled with shadows that give the fresco a sense of depth and space. “They (Second Style frescos) depict large scale landscapes, with small figures in pale colors framed by painted pilasters. Their perspective is more atmospheric than linear, so that the illusion of depth increases as the forms lose clarity” (Adams 246). These aspects strongly support the classification of the Fragment of a Fresco into the Second Style. However, within this particular fresco lie techniques that are also associated with the period of the First Style. This style is marked by a portrayal of architectural illusionism. It appears that the wall is not a solid surface but rather a portal to the world beyond it. The addition of the columns, which appear to be in front of the wall and window, create an entirely imaginary architectural aspect and provide the three-dimensional effect that is visible. The use of shadows within this fresco shows the artist’s deliberate attempt to give the appearance that the fresco was not simply art, but rather an actual part of the room.
Fragment of a Fresco is a piece created in one of the more turbulent and evolutionary times in Roman history. Painted during the time of transition, this piece does not depict a scene of glorious combat, but rather provides us with a sense of the art and culture of the time. This fresco also provides us with detailed insight to the interior design and decoration of Roman structures from this time period. While the Fragment of a Fresco may lack notable historical importance, it’s present value could be exploited more ferociously. This particular piece has characteristics of both the First and Second Styles, yet is only classified in the Second Style. It should be used, along with frescos that share similar characteristics, to discredit the system of classification currently in place.