Different renderings of a roman fresco mock-up area to test out various epigraphic representations

Jan 29, 2021

Continued from PART ONE...

It would be common sense to think that the ARCE conservation project and the accompanying book would be the last word on the Imperial Cult Chamber. However, the continuous decay of the frescoes, the still unresolved protection of the murals, and the rising number in tourism led the Survey to reevaluate their earlier plans to protect the information on the walls by initiating the complete epigraphic documentation of the room and the remaining frescoes within.

When brainstorming about the actual method, we looked at all the visual material produced of the frescoes, archival and contemporary photographs, and travelers’ sketches alike. One of the most notable early scientific efforts was the outline drawing reconstruction created after Deckers’ conservation and condition study. In light of all the accounted material, there were some important decisions to make before the epigraphic work could be started, notably, to follow Deckers' approach and proceed with schematic line drawings or to create much more detailed documentation recording all traces of pigment still preserved on the walls.

One brief look at the frescoes makes it obvious that most of the top layer containing the bulk of the details is gone. Occasionally, only paint scars are preserved, with very little pigment remaining on the surface. In some instances, these traces do not even form any recognizable features, so the main goal of epigraphic recording, in this case, could only be to isolate the visible pigment and to synthesize the data detectable on the surface.

It was evident that by reducing the traces to mere outlines we’ll neither be able to register most of the traces on the wall nor accurately render the style. Nonetheless, as can be seen in the image, we had many different renderings of a mock-up area to test out various epigraphic representations.

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