We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short, personal reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. These recordings feature stories related to our daily lives.
This week, educator Elmira Adamian wonders about a couple in an ancient fresco as she shelters at home with her family. To learn more about this work, visit: https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/6535/.
Over the next few weeks, look for new recordings every other Tuesday.
JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, President of the J. Paul Getty trust. In a new podcast feature, we’re asking members of the Getty community to share short reflections on works of art to thinking about right now. We’ll be releasing new recordings every other Tuesday. I hope you’ll find these stories about our daily lives, from laundry on the line to a dog, scholars feet, thought provoking illuminating and entertaining.
ELMIRA DAMIAN: Hi, my name is Elmira Damian. I’m a gallery educator at the Getty Villa.
Recently, I’ve been looking closely at one of the frescoed wall panels that decorated a room of a first century ancient Roman Villa at Boscoreale. This large fresco depict delicate architectural designs on a black and yellow background. In the center, there is a small picture of a room with two figures, a seated man facing a beautiful woman. At first glance it looks like the couple is engaged in an intimate and tranquil conversation, but the smallness of a room on a big wall surface implies tension in a confined space.
This scene reminds me of my situation during the pandemic in lockdown at home. Being at the house all the time, and sharing workspace with my family was a little uncomfortable at first. We were not used to having so much time together, other than a couple of hours after work. Many of my friends commented that spending so much time at home was a bit stressful for their relationships. But others have remarked on positive outcomes like going closer to their family because of that.
In my family we try to make the best out of this new norm at home, my husband and I came up with creative ideas and home renovation project. We’ve had long conversations and debates. We’ve cooked, baked, and watched movies. And with horror, we’ve reminisced on the nightmare traffic of the 405, when we both had to drive to work.
When I come back to the fresco image again. I wonder about the couple’s relationship and their conversation. Their identities are unknown, but some scholars think that the pair could be Socrates and Diotima. Socrates was a Greek philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and Diotima is said to have taught Socrates the philosophy of love.
No matter who they are, in this small, intimate setting these two characters seem to be engaged in an exciting dialogue. I think that this fresco could be a great conversation starter itself. I just wish I was back in the galleries and I could ask people what they think about it.
CUNO: To view this Roman wall panel from a villa in Boscoreale, Italy, created around the years 1 to 50 CE, click the link in this episode’s description or look forward on getty.edu/art/collection.