Last Days of Pompeii

Posted in Exhibitions and Installations, Getty Villa, J. Paul Getty Museum

“The Last Days of Pompeii” and the Archaeology of Imagination

The Forum at Pompeii with Vesuvius in the Distance / Christen Schjellerup Kobke

Having traveled to countless archaeological excavations—and heard, overheard, or given tours at archaeological sites from diverse cultures—I am often struck by what narratives about the ancient world grab people’s imagination. Whether it be hair-raising mythological stories brought to life by… More»

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Posted in Ancient World, Antiquities, Exhibitions and Installations, Getty Villa, J. Paul Getty Museum

Apocalypse Then: Bulwer-Lytton’s “The Last Days of Pompeii”

Cover and illustration from Bulwer-Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii

Mount Vesuvius erupted on August 24, A.D. 79, burying Pompeii and neighboring towns under tons of ash and volcanic debris. Rediscovered by accident some 1,650 years later, the Vesuvian ruins captured the imagination of artists and writers, who vied to… More»

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      #ThyCaptionBe: You Look Like Hell

      You captioned this detail. And we’re revealing the full story now.

      Escaping the in-laws or medieval Sea World? It’s actually an extreme punishment for a dress code violation. 

      Here’s the full story:

      The Christian tale of Saint Josaphat is roughly based on the life of the Buddha in a kind of medieval game of telephone, in which the sources for the text passed through Christian circles in the Middle East in the 8th century before appearing in European versions in the 11th century. 

      Here an unsuitably dressed guest—we can see that his tattered clothing and scruffy facial hair have no place at the well-dressed gathering—is cast into the dark, open mouth of a terrifying animal. 

      To make matters worse, the story is a parable in which Barlaam, Josaphat’s Christian teacher, describes the sinful who do not make the cut at the Last Judgment.

      Holiday Lesson: Always check the dress code.

      #ThyCaptionBe is a celebration of modern interpretations of medieval aesthetics. You guess what the heck is going on, then we myth-bust.


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