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Herculaneum II.2. Casa d’ Argo, or House of Argus.

Excavated between 1828-1855.

Part 1                                                        Part 2

 

According to Maiuri, this was the most beautiful of the houses brought to light by the old excavations from 1828-1835.

The only parts uncovered were the eastern quarter with a stately but secondary entrance from Cardo III, and some of the ground-floor and cellar rooms along the south side: the rest of the dwelling is still buried under the modern Via Mare.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking south on Cardo III Inferiore towards doorway with benches on either side of it.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015.

Looking south on Cardo III Inferiore towards doorway with benches on either side of it.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, August 2013. Bench on north side of entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

II.2 Herculaneum, August 2013. Bench on north side of entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, 1957. Looking towards doorway. Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.
Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details. J57f0433

II.2 Herculaneum, 1957. Looking towards doorway. Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski.

Source: The Wilhelmina and Stanley A. Jashemski archive in the University of Maryland Library, Special Collections (See collection page) and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial License v.4. See Licence and use details.

J57f0433

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Present day entrance doorway, but originally this would have been the posticum doorway from the rear of the peristyle. The main doorway would have been entered from Cardo II, but has not yet been excavated into the open air.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015.

Present day entrance doorway, but originally this would have been the rear ‘posticum’ doorway from the rear of the peristyle.

The main doorway would have been entered from Cardo II but has not yet been excavated into the open air.

 

II.1 Herculaneum,1842, drawing by Zahn. Plan showing the houses discovered between 1828 until 1838, (described as) at the side of the sea, not far from the theatre. 
This consists of II.1 lower floor, separately on left, II.1 on left, II.2 in centre, and II.3 on right.
On the lower part of the roadway (Cardo III) is III.1, III.2, and III.3, on right.
See Zahn, W., 1842. Die schönsten Ornamente und merkwürdigsten Gemälde aus Pompeji, Herkulanum und Stabiae: II. Berlin: Reimer. (63)

II.1 Herculaneum,1842, drawing by Zahn. Plan showing the houses discovered between 1828 until 1838, (described as) at the side of the sea, not far from the theatre.

This consists of II.1 lower floor, separately on left, II.1 on left, II.2 in centre, and II.3 on right.

On the lower part of the roadway (Cardo III) is III.1, III.2, and III.3, on right.

See Zahn, W., 1842. Die schönsten Ornamente und merkwürdigsten Gemälde aus Pompeji, Herkulanum und Stabiae: II. Berlin: Reimer. (63)

 

II.2 Herculaneum,1842, drawing by Zahn. Street view of the exterior façade of the houses discovered between 1828 until 1838, (described as by the side of the sea, not far from the theatre).

II.1 is on the left in the top drawing, with terrace overlooking the sea, and doorway shaded by a roof held up by four columns;

II.2 is on the left of the middle drawing, with an upper floor overlooking the roadway and a doorway shaded by a roof supported by four pilasters;

On the right is II.3, with its doorway shaded by a roof supported by two columns.

The lowest drawing is a complete vista on the west side of Cardo III, from II.1 up until II.3.

See Zahn, W., 1842. Die schönsten Ornamente und merkwürdigsten Gemälde aus Pompeji, Herkulanum und Stabiae: II. Berlin: Reimer. (64).

During the excavation there were still upper floors, whereas now there are only lower floors (other than some fragments of the upper) but one can see in several places the position of the beams of the planks for the upper floors, as well as the ceilings of the lower floors with their tiles. These Herculaneum wooden constructions, all charred, have been preserved, while those at Pompeii are rotten. Wooden doors and other wooden structures, have also been preserved in charcoal, so that the shapes are perfectly recognisable. The walls and columns are made of irregular stones, partly in brick and volcanic stones, partly in Opus reticulatum, stuccoed, and partly painted.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. Looking west towards doorway. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.
According to Pagano, “Although this has not been totally uncovered, at least one can judge that this would have been a large dwelling, and was given this name by the finding of a fresco showing the shepherd Argo who protects the nymph Io. On the outside we see two long benches at the side of the door, in front of which the masonry pilasters covered in stucco held up a roof. This door, as well as in the preceding house, was not the main entrance but knowing the manner of building/construction of the ancients, this must have been found on the opposite side which is not yet excavated.
Firstly, it presents a room somewhat preserved with beautiful walls painted in red with architectural drawings and pictures of marine views. The floor is in white mosaic, with large window on the left protruding over the garden. 
The garden or peristyle has a beautiful colonnade around which held the roof of the portico. Several of the columns still retain their capitals of white stucco very well worked with taste. 
Around the portico there are many rooms, and the one seen in the first portico on the left entering, with walls painted in red and floors of white mosaic, called an exedra or reception room which was without doors, and according to the use of the ancients, would have been closed with a curtain of cloth.
Another large room for the same use seen in the portico on the right, which was also decorated with paintings and marble floor. Presently, there are just traces remaining. Then, you go to another room for dining with large window protruding to the garden. It has walls painted in red and architectural designs”.
See PAGANO, N, Descrizione degli scavi di Ercolano, 1870. (p.22-25)

II.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. Looking west towards doorway. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

According to Pagano, “Although this has not been totally uncovered, at least one can judge that this would have been a large dwelling and was given this name by the finding of a fresco showing the shepherd Argo who protects the nymph Io. On the outside we see two long benches at the side of the door, in front of which the masonry pilasters covered in stucco held up a roof. This door, as well as in the preceding house, was not the main entrance but knowing the manner of building/construction of the ancients, this must have been found on the opposite side which is not yet excavated.

Firstly, it presents a room somewhat preserved with beautiful walls painted in red with architectural drawings and pictures of marine views. The floor is in white mosaic, with large window on the left protruding over the garden.

The garden or peristyle has a beautiful colonnade around which held the roof of the portico. Several of the columns still retain their capitals of white stucco very well worked with taste.

Around the portico there are many rooms, and the one seen in the first portico on the left entering, with walls painted in red and floors of white mosaic, called an exedra or reception room which was without doors, and according to the use of the ancients, would have been closed with a curtain of cloth.

Another large room for the same use seen in the portico on the right, which was also decorated with paintings and marble floor. Presently, there are just traces remaining. Then, you go to another room for dining with large window protruding to the garden. It has walls painted in red and architectural designs”.

See Pagano, N, Descrizione degli scavi di Ercolano, 1870. (p.22-25)

 

II.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. North side of entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

II.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. North side of entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Threshold of doorway from Cardo III Inferiore.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Threshold of “posticum” doorway from Cardo III Inferiore.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking west from entrance doorway.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking west from entrance doorway.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Threshold of doorway of room in north-east corner from peristyle. Looking west.  Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Threshold of doorway of room in north-east corner from peristyle. Looking west.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking west across room in north-east corner from peristyle.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015.

Looking west across room in north-east corner from peristyle.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Remains of flooring.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Remains of flooring.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards south side of room in north-east corner from peristyle.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards south side of room in north-east corner from peristyle.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Flooring in room from entrance doorway.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Flooring in room from entrance doorway.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Threshold of second doorway to room on north side of peristyle in north-east corner..

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015.

Threshold of second doorway to room on north side of peristyle in north-east corner.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, August 2013. Looking south from room with entrance doorway towards doorway to peristyle, on right.  Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.
Originally when excavated, this area would have had an upper floor.

II.2 Herculaneum, August 2013.

Looking south from room with entrance doorway towards doorway to peristyle, on right.

Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

Originally when excavated, this area would have had an upper floor.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Stuccoed pilaster on north-east corner of peristyle.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Stuccoed pilaster on north-east corner of peristyle.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Upper stuccoed pilaster on north-east corner of peristyle.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Upper stuccoed pilaster on north-east corner of peristyle.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Upper stuccoed pilaster on north-east corner of peristyle.  The holes for the support beams for the floor of the upper rooms can be seen above the pilaster.  Looking west along the north portico.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Upper stuccoed pilaster on north-east corner of peristyle.

The holes for the support beams for the floor of the upper rooms can be seen above the pilaster.

Looking west along the north portico.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, August 2013. Looking towards room with upper floor, on north side of peristyle. Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

II.2 Herculaneum, August 2013. Looking towards room with upper floor, on north side of peristyle.

Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. Looking towards west side of room with upper floor, on north side of peristyle. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

II.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. Looking towards west side of room with upper floor, on north side of peristyle.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards east wall and north-east corner of room on north side of peristyle. On the east wall was a central painting showing Hercules in the garden of Hesperides, but now illegible. 
See Pesando, F. and Guidobaldi, M.P. (2006). Pompei, Oplontis, Ercolano, Stabiae. Editori Laterza, (p.314-5)
See Maiuri, Amedeo, (1977). Herculaneum. 7th English ed, of Guide books to the Museums Galleries and Monuments of Italy, No.53 (p.23-24).
See Guidobaldi, M.P, 2009: Ercolano, guida agli scavi. Naples, Electa Napoli, (p.54-55).

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015.

Looking towards east wall and north-east corner of room on north side of peristyle.

On the east wall was a central painting showing Hercules in the garden of Hesperides, but now illegible.

See Pesando, F. and Guidobaldi, M.P. (2006). Pompei, Oplontis, Ercolano, Stabiae. Editori Laterza, (p.314-5)

See Maiuri, Amedeo, (1977). Herculaneum. 7th English ed, of Guide books to the Museums Galleries and Monuments of Italy, No.53 (p.23-24).

See Guidobaldi, M.P, 2009: Ercolano, guida agli scavi. Naples, Electa Napoli, (p.54-55).

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. North wall. On the north wall was a central painting of a landscape.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. North wall.

On the north wall was a central painting of a landscape.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Landscape painting from north wall.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Detail of landscape painting from north wall.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. Landscape painting from north wall. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

II.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. Landscape painting from north wall. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, March 2008. Landscape painting from north wall.
Photo courtesy of Sera Baker.

II.2 Herculaneum, March 2008. Landscape painting from north wall.

Photo courtesy of Sera Baker.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, April 2005. Detail of landscape painting from north wall. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

II.2 Herculaneum, April 2005. Detail of landscape painting from north wall. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. West wall.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. West wall and north-west corner.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Upper west wall. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Upper west wall. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

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II.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. Upper west wall and north-west corner. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. West wall and north-west corner. On the west wall was a central painting of Polyphemus and Galatea, now illegible.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. West wall and north-west corner.

On the west wall was a central painting of Polyphemus and Galatea, now illegible.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. West wall. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

II.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. West wall. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Remains of painting of Polyphemus and Galatea from west wall.  According to Pagano and Prisciandaro, on 20th November1828 –
“Various other paintings have been discovered in various sites of this mansion and they represent Polyphemus on Etna in the midst of his flock and Galatea on a dolphin in the sea of Sicily (Table 12, no.10). A large serpent, the genius of the place, twisted around a tree and an altar to the devout who worshipped it: and finally a beautiful resting bacchante and a cupid. Bonnucci.”  Ref: StErc 488.
(20 nov1828 – “Vari altri quadri si sono discoverti in vari siti di questa magione e rappresentano Polifemo sull’Etna in mezzo al suo gregge e Galatea su di un delfino nel mar di Sicilia (Tavola 12, numero 10).  Un gran serpente il genio del luogo, attortigliato ad un albero ed un’ara a de’ devote che l’adorano: e finalmente una bella baccante che sogguarda e riposa, ed un amore che sembra voler indicare che alcuno e per giungere e che qualche scena misteriosa vada ben tosto a compirsi. Bonnucci”.)

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015.

Remains of painting of Polyphemus and Galatea from west wall.

According to Pagano and Prisciandaro, on 20th November1828 –

“Various other paintings have been discovered in various sites of this mansion and they represent Polyphemus on Etna in the midst of his flock and Galatea on a dolphin in the sea of Sicily (Table 12, no.10). A large serpent, the genius of the place, twisted around a tree and an altar to the devout who worshipped it: and finally, a beautiful resting bacchante and a cupid. Bonnucci.”  Ref: StErc 488.

(20 nov1828 – “Vari altri quadri si sono discoverti in vari siti di questa magione e rappresentano Polifemo sull’Etna in mezzo al suo gregge e Galatea su di un delfino nel mar di Sicilia (Tavola 12, numero 10).  Un gran serpente il genio del luogo, attortigliato ad un albero ed un’ara a de’ devote che l’adorano: e finalmente una bella baccante che sogguarda e riposa, ed un amore che sembra voler indicare che alcuno e per giungere e che qualche scena misteriosa vada ben tosto a compirsi. Bonnucci”.)

See Pagano, M. and Prisciandaro, R., 2006. Studio sulle provenienze degli oggetti rinvenuti negli scavi borbonici del regno di Napoli. Naples: Nicola Longobardi. (p.225)

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking west along north portico.  Above the west portico, runs the Via Mare with its houses.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking west along north portico.

Above the west portico, runs the Via Mare with its houses. 

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. 
Looking through entrance doorway towards east side of wide rectangular exedra on north side of peristyle.
According to the Herculaneum guidebook, this house was named from a fresco, now lost, which was painted on one of the walls of this exedra.
The painting showed Argo who guarded Io, the nymph loved by Zeus and who was transformed into a heifer.
See Guidobaldi, M.P, 2009. Ercolano, guida agli scavi, Napoli, Electa, (p.54)
According to Pagano and Prisciandaro, on 23rd December 1828 –
“A large and beautiful exedra or receiving room began to come out into the light (Table 12, no.14).
Its floor must have been one of the most superb since it was in various places covered with large slabs of exotic and precious marbles. A picture that showed Mercury trying to distract Argo and kidnap the beautiful Io was in one side of this room, now fallen, and was surrounded by trophies and decoration of the most precious style. Bonnucci”. Ref: StErc 559.
(23 dic 1828. “Una grande e bella exedra o sale di ricevimento incominicia a comparire alla luce (Tav XII, numero 14). Il suo pavimento deve essere dei piu superbi mentre era in vari punti ricoverto di grandi lastre di marmi esotici e preziosi. Un quadro che esprime Mercurio che tenta di adormentare Argo e rapirgli la bella Io e in un lato di questa stanza, ora caduto, ed era circondato da trofei e da decorazione dell’ piu pregiovole stile. Bonnucci”.
See Pagano, M. and Prisciandaro, R., 2006. Studio sulle provenienze degli oggetti rinvenuti negli scavi borbonici del regno di Napoli. Naples: Nicola Longobardi. (p.225).

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015.

Looking through entrance doorway towards east side of wide rectangular exedra on north side of peristyle.

According to the Herculaneum guidebook, this house was named from a fresco, now lost, which was painted on one of the walls of this exedra.

The painting showed Argo who guarded Io, the nymph loved by Zeus and who was transformed into a heifer.

See Guidobaldi, M.P, 2009. Ercolano, guida agli scavi, Napoli, Electa, (p.54)

According to Pagano and Prisciandaro, on 23rd December 1828 –

“A large and beautiful exedra or receiving room began to come out into the light (Table 12, no.14).

Its floor must have been one of the most superb since it was in various places covered with large slabs of exotic and precious marbles. A picture that showed Mercury trying to distract Argo and kidnap the beautiful Io was in one side of this room, now fallen, and was surrounded by trophies and decoration of the most precious style. Bonnucci”. Ref: StErc 559.

(23 dic 1828. “Una grande e bella exedra o sale di ricevimento incominicia a comparire alla luce (Tav XII, numero 14). Il suo pavimento deve essere dei piu superbi mentre era in vari punti ricoverto di grandi lastre di marmi esotici e preziosi. Un quadro che esprime Mercurio che tenta di adormentare Argo e rapirgli la bella Io e in un lato di questa stanza, ora caduto, ed era circondato da trofei e da decorazione dell’ piu pregiovole stile. Bonnucci”.

See Pagano, M. and Prisciandaro, R., 2006. Studio sulle provenienze degli oggetti rinvenuti negli scavi borbonici del regno di Napoli. Naples: Nicola Longobardi. (p.225).

 

II.2 Herculaneum, 1832. East side of wide rectangular exedra on north side of peristyle.
Painting by N. La Volpe of Io, Argo, and Mercury.
See Real Museo Borbonico VIII, 1832, Tav. 25.

II.2 Herculaneum, 1832. East side of wide rectangular exedra on north side of peristyle.

Painting by N. La Volpe of Io, Argo, and Mercury.

See Real Museo Borbonico VIII, 1832, Tav. 25.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards east wall of rectangular exedra. 
Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards east wall of rectangular exedra.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Remaining painted plaster on east wall.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Remaining painted plaster on east wall of rectangular exedra.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards remaining north, and east wall of rectangular exedra.
According to Barker – “In the triclinium, the pictures in the panels are larger. 
On the central panel is represented Argos and Io, from which fresco the house takes its name.
On the side panels are two winged Victories.
The frieze at the bottom is very charming, representing hunting scenes and sea monsters.
These panels are unfortunately somewhat injured.
The ground of the lower part is black, and of the upper, white”.
See Barker, E.R. (1908). Buried Herculaneum, (p.162).

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards remaining north, and east wall of rectangular exedra.

According to Barker – “In the triclinium, the pictures in the panels are larger.

On the central panel is represented Argos and Io, from which fresco the house takes its name.

On the side panels are two winged Victories.

The frieze at the bottom is very charming, representing hunting scenes and sea monsters.

These panels are unfortunately somewhat injured.

The ground of the lower part is black, and of the upper, white”.

See Barker, E.R. (1908). Buried Herculaneum, (p.162).

 

II.2 Herculaneum,1842, drawing by Zahn. Wall of triclinium, with central painting of Argos, Io and Mercury. 
The background of the wall was black, with only the upper part being white. The zoccolo/plinth/dado was painted as marble of different colours. 
The central painting, as well as the two Victories in the side panels, in fact the whole wall, was very damaged and hardly recognizable.
See Zahn, W., 1842. Die schönsten Ornamente und merkwürdigsten Gemälde aus Pompeji, Herkulanum und Stabiae: II. Berlin: Reimer. (83)

II.2 Herculaneum,1842, drawing by Zahn. Wall of triclinium, with central painting of Argos, Io and Mercury.

The background of the wall was black, with only the upper part being white. The zoccolo/plinth/dado was painted as marble of different colours.

The central painting, as well as the two Victories in the side panels, in fact the whole wall, was very damaged and hardly recognizable.

See Zahn, W., 1842. Die schönsten Ornamente und merkwürdigsten Gemälde aus Pompeji, Herkulanum und Stabiae: II. Berlin: Reimer. (83)

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards remaining west and north wall of rectangular exedra. At the north end of the west wall was a doorway into a corridor/room.  According to Pesando and Guidobaldi, the flooring which was of polychrome marble was carried away by the Bourbon excavators.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards remaining west and north wall of rectangular exedra.

At the north end of the west wall was a doorway into a corridor/room.

According to Pesando and Guidobaldi, the flooring which was of polychrome marble was carried away by the Bourbon excavators.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Doorway in west wall of exedra, looking west.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015.

Looking west through doorway in west wall of exedra, into a corridor and across into an oecus.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking west towards a Bourbon tunnel at the rear of the oecus.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015.

Looking west towards a Bourbon tunnel at the rear of the oecus.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Doorway in north wall of oecus, leading into corridor/room in north-west corner.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015.

Doorway in north wall of oecus, leading into corridor/room in north-west corner.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Blocked Bourbon tunnel.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Blocked Bourbon tunnel.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking east from corridor/room in north-west corner.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015.

Looking east from corridor/room in north-west corner towards the rear doorway into the rectangular exedra.

 

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking east along north portico.

II.2 Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking east along north portico.

 

 

Part 2