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Lucentum, Tossal de Manises (Alicante)

Fresco painting on top of a lime base
h: 305 cm; w: 265 cm.
h: 303 cm; w: 139 cm; th: 8 cm.
First half of the 2nd century AD.

Wall painting from a room excavated in Lucentum, reconstructed using pieces recovered in the 1980s by M. Monraval.
The wall can be divided in three sections, beginning from the floor going upwards. The lower area is composed of a beige coloured continuous skirting board measuring 30 cm high, and the dado, which is divided into rectangular panels representing two marble imitations; numidicum and pavoanzzetto marble, framed by black bands and red fillets on one side, and imitation cipollino marble on the other. The middle area or main frieze is decorated with a succession of wide and narrow panels. The first are decorated with plane red, yellow and green tints and the narrower inter-panels are decorated with stylised vegetal candelabras topped by a large flower inside a square panel. Lastly, the upper part of the wall is decorated with a moulded stucco cornice approximately 15 cm high. The first two sections of the wall stand out due to the rich polychrome colours, the fillets which end in vegetal motifs and the fine decoration in the angles or corners of the panels. On the other hand, the upper part and ceiling have a completely white background, which enhances the decorative motifs which are repeated in a type of grid system on the ceiling. This is a very typical form of decoration during the period which the paintings date to. The decoration is formed by a series of medallions consisting of plant garlands which at the same time enclose other denticulated medallions decorated on the inside with different figurative motifs such as birds, lunar masks and different types of schematic flowers.

Roman painting, unlike Greek painting, is mainly wall paintings which have a double function. On one hand they serve as a wall covering, very often made out of poor materials, and on the other, as an ornamental coverings due to the decorative features or motifs which are represented in them. The paintings, displayed here, cover both uses: utilitas and ornato (the functional and ornamental), and the decoration of the wall paintings are typical of the styles and preferences of that time. This is clearly seen in different parts of the decoration, starting with the lower area, where the skirting boards and dados are imitations of very common types of marble lining used throughout the Roman provinces. Perhaps due to the high cost of marble, painted marble veneering was used instead. The friezes with their typical decoration of stylised candelabras have been recorded elsewhere in western Roman provinces between the 1st and beginnings of the 2nd century AD, and the ceiling’s decorated grid system was very fashionable throughout the 2nd century AD.
C.S. 3364, 3770, 3775, 3776 y 3777
FERNÁNDEZ DÍAZ, A. 2000-2001.

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