The University Record, October 9, 2000

‘Villa of the Mysteries’ on display

‘Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii: Ancient Ritual, Modern Muse,’ an exhibition organized by the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and the Museum of Art, will be on display through Nov. 19 in the Museum of Art’s West Gallery and at the Kelsey Museum.

The show centers on a series of frescoes discovered in 1909 at a private residence outside of Pompeii. The paintings, executed 60–40 B.C., depict women engaged in rituals that have been connected to the cult of Dionysus (also known as Bacchus), perhaps initiation rites in preparation for marriage. The painting cycle captivated former Latin Prof. Francis Kelsey (1858–1927), who commissioned a near life-size replica of the frescoes. These watercolors, by Italian artist Maria Barosso, have been in storage at the University for nearly 70 years. Shown here is a ‘Villa of the Mysteries’ detail of Barosso’s watercolor replica of the Dionysiac Mural Cycle, completed in 1925–27.

The exhibits provide a look at the cultural and religious life of women in Pompeii during this period. Exhibition items at the Museum of Art include majestic Barosso watercolors; Greek, South Italian, Etruscan and Roman artifacts; sculptures; painted vases; bronzes; wall painting fragments; terracotta figures; cameos; and other works of art. A virtual reality walk-through of the Villa of the Mysteries site will simulate the experience of ancient visitors encountering the murals.

The Kelsey Museum show, featuring 60 works from the Kelsey’s extensive collection and pieces on loan from institutions across the country, will focus on the ancient social, religious and iconographic contexts of the Villa of the Mysteries cycle. Elaine Gadza, professor of art history and curator of Hellenistic and Roman antiquities, Kelsey Museum, worked for two years with a team of graduate students and with the Museum of Art to complete this large project.

For more information, call (734) 764-0395. The Museum of Art is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Thurs. and noon–5 p.m. Sun. Admission is free.

Photo and information courtesy Museum of Art