Book Series Studies in Classical Archaeology, vol. 14

Painting Pompeii

Painters, Practices, and Organization

Francesca Bologna

  • Pages: approx. 150 p.
  • Size:216 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:28 b/w, 60 col., 8 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2024


This book looks beyond the bright colours and imaginative forms of Roman wall paintings, investigating the materials, gestures, and decisions involved in their making.


Francesca Bologna is a Research Fellow at the University of Verona. She completed her PhD at King’s College London, with a thesis focusing on Roman wall painters in Pompeii. She worked at the British Museum as Project Curator for the exhibition ‘Nero: the man behind the myth’ and taught Roman archaeology at King’s College and Royal Holloway. Her research focuses on ancient craft production, particularly its economics and workforce organisation.


In the Roman world, wall paintings were one of the most pervasive art forms, adorning buildings of all levels, from public spaces and elite houses to far more modest dwellings. Yet despite the very visual nature of their work, Roman painters have remained largely invisible to history. This book attempts to rectify this situation, by shifting the focus from the paintings themselves to the people who realized them, looking beyond the bright colours and imaginative forms to investigate the materials, production practices, and choices underpinning artistic decisions.

Taking Pompeii as its starting point, this volume reconstructs what it meant to paint for a living, and asks if it was actually possible to make a living as a painter in the Roman world. Wall paintings are investigated stylistically but also from an ethnological and economic point of view. Broader comparisons across time and space, combined with a quantitative analysis of the labour involved in making wall paintings, allow the author to assess this art form as an economically-embedded practice. Through this unique approach, the volume exposes the social and economic forces underlying craft production, and offers new insights into the lived experience of Roman artisans.


List of Illustrations

List of Abbreviations

Introduction and Book Structure

Chapter 1. Painters and Workshops: An Ongoing Debate
The Morellian Method
Individual Style and Attribution in Archaeology
Identifying Roman Wall Painters’ Hands
‘Workshop’: A Terminological Issue
Workforce Organization, Division of Labour, and Specialization
Identifying Specific Teams of Painters: Previous Approaches and Their Limits
Art and Its Makers in the Ancient World 

Chapter 2. Pompeian Painters
Third Style Painters
Further Possible Attributions
Observations on Distribution and Dating: Workshops or Teams of  Painters?
Fourth Style Painters
The ‘Vettii Workshop’
Patronage and Commissioning

Chapter 3. Making in Figures: The Energetics of Wall Painting
Wall Painting Technique
Labour Figures
The Casa dei Pittori al Lavoro (IX, 12, 9)
Materials: Plaster and Colours
Production Times: Plastering and Painting
Living Standards
Local Demand and Professional Choices
Free Labour or Slaves?

Chapter 4. Being a maker in the Classical World and Beyond
Quattrocento Florence and Other Comparative Models
Instability of Employment
Versatility and Specialisation
Sketch-books and the Creation of Art

Chapter 5. Conclusions

Works Cited