CLARA Review: Maria Luisa Catoni & Gabriel Zuchtriegel (eds), 2022: Arte e sensualità nelle case di Pompei (Catalogo della mostra, Parco Archeologico di Pompei). Artem. 280 pages.


  • Astri Karine Lundgren University of Oslo & Museum of Cultural History in Oslo



The exhibition Arte e sensualità nelle case di Pompei (21 April 2022-15 January 2023) has been curated by professor in art history and classical archaeology, Maria Luisa Catoni (IMT Lucca) and director of the Pompeii archaeological park, Gabriel Zuchtriegel. It offers a glimpse of the sensual, sexual and erotic aesthetics which decorated different spaces of ‘an ideal’ Pompeian domus. This wide repertoire brings together 69 items, including wall-paintings, statues (ranging from 139 cm to 94 cm) and statuettes (63 cm-13 cm), as well as other personal and everyday objects, dating to between the first century BC and the first century AD. Aside from the bronze medallions decorating the ceremonial chariot or ‘pilentum’ from Civita Giuliana discovered in 2021, and the newly restored wall-paintings from cubiculum 8 at Villa del Carmiano at Gragnano, all displayed works have been recovered from the storage rooms of Pompeii (rather than borrowed from other institutions or museums). The use of stored objects from depositories is a much-welcomed development for displaying sensual and erotic art from Pompeii. While current practices have a tendency to arrange exhibitions around the same familiar artefacts, Arte e sensualità nelle case di Pompei exhibits lesser-known examples—giving the audience an idea of the complex and diverse nature of such items. This review attempts to evaluate the potential of Arte e sensualità nelle case di Pompei and the accompanying catalogue. It begins with a definition of the field, continuing with an account and a walk-through of each of the exhibition areas. The review concludes with a descriptive evaluation of the lavishly illustrated catalogue.