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Herculaneum IV.2. Casa dell’ Atrio a mosaico or House of Mosaic atrium, linked to IV.1.

Excavated 1929-30.

 

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This house takes its name from the mosaic chess-board decoration of the atrium.

The mosaic pavement of the fauces and atrium are intact; the one in the entrance corridor is in squares with decorative emblems and recalls the motifs of a carpet.

The floor in the atrium has a simple geometric design with large black and white rectangles. The undulation of the pavement is due to the yielding of the ground beneath the enormous weight of the eruptive mass.

See Maiuri, Amedeo, (1977). Herculaneum. 7th English ed, of Guide books to the Museums Galleries and Monuments of Italy, No.53 (p.27).

 

Cerulli Irelli wrote that -

“The new excavations of Herculaneum, intended to discover the southern part of the city, were started recently – April 4, 1927 (the official inauguration of the excavations took place on May 16) – when the clearing of Insula III was completed, we set about to conquer Cardo IV and to discover the new large group of homes that appeared in the east, later referred to as the insula IV.

 

The house which was called by Maiuri “of the Mosaic Atrium”, and which in the Giornale di scavo was referred to as "house no. 8", was first reached by the pickaxe on June 3, 1929.

 

The Giornale, precise but schematic – at the same time they were excavating the two neighbouring houses "of the Alcove" and "of the Deer",- gave all necessary information about the conditions of the masonry structures, their details, the remarkable wooden remains, the graffiti; particularly precious was the fine detail of the report on paintings, which helped our current analysis of the decorations that are in part faded. The report was however, as we have said, too condensed to tell us the impression of the excavators, or not even the idea of the monument's appearance at the discovery and the interdependence of the remains.  Due to the facts that this area was one of those most disturbed by the passage of the dense network of Bourbon tunnels, as well as from the violence of the eruption flows, most of the walls of the atrium were lost, and all the western side of the cryptoporticus. Evident traces of the passages of the tunnels are in the Tablinum and Corridor, (15), where there remains a breach in the wall with the adjoining House of the deer, and in the rooms (24) and (19); a remarkable tunnel ran in the north-south direction, through the rooms overlooking the eastern side of the peristyle.

 

Not the least drawback, due to the tunnels, is that of the scarcity of domestic goods, which would also have been valuable to determine the standard of living of the inhabitants, and in consequence the greater or lesser importance of the workers called to decorate the house. Amongst the most important finds we must mention a marble sundial, a lead box, a square bronze box, a marble statue of Silenus, some tripods, a candlestick, a funnel, a wine-jug, and some other pottery of bronze and terracotta, some lamps and bronzes, coins, charred dates and finally a small carbonized table with three legs. 

 

The excavation started from the atrium, and proceeded from the Cardo IV, and soon followed along the western side of the great peristyle and the garden; at the end of July, the eastern part of the peristyle was reached and at the end of September the digging up of the winter quarters was finished along with the atrium and the large tablinum; in December the southern quarter was started. In August 1930 the excavation was finished; the restoration and the partial reconstruction was done progressively, even if these works were then continued, with some retouching, throughout 1931.

 

The work was carried out entirely by hand and the restoration carried out carefully according to the system still used all over Herculaneum although with some refinement; the masonry in opus reticulatum was revived, consolidating the last rows, and restored in the many places where the eruption flow or passage of the tunnels had damaged or even destroyed it, with masonry in opus incertum of tufa, in a manner to obtain a separation between the ancient and the modern. The walls of the atrium, the most damaged area, were instead raised in masonry of a completely modern aspect, to make the restoration clearer; this system has now been abandoned.

 

The piers were restored in the same technique; The floors consolidated as far as possible, without adding other mosaic tiles, the wall paintings left in place, protected by a film of wax and stuccoed on the edges: where they had fallen in minute fragments, they were reinforced on a layer of cement and sand applied on the masonry, original or redone; the missing parts were completed with a layer of glue mixed with a base, on which the main lines of the design were brought back in white.

 

Ceilings and roofs had to be entirely redone on the ancient traces: the only exception was the attic in wood, partially well preserved, on site in the north wing of the peristyle. Where fragments of painted decoration were preserved, they were put back in place.”

See Cerulli Irelli, G. Le pitture della Casa dell’ Atrio a Mosaico. Monumenti della pitture antica scoperti in Italia, (p.9-10).

 

Looking in through entrance doorway.

 

IV.2/1, Herculaneum, June 2017, Looking towards entrance doorway, numbered 2 on left, and south along façade to rear entrance at number 1, on right. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

IV.2/1, Herculaneum, June 2017, Looking towards entrance doorway, numbered 2 on left, and south along façade to rear entrance at number 1, on right.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

Ins. IV.2, Herculaneum, September 2015. Entrance doorway.

IV.2, Herculaneum, September 2015. Entrance doorway.

 

IV.2 Herculaneum, July 2015. Looking north along east side of Cardo IV Inferiore, towards entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

IV.2 Herculaneum, July 2015. Looking north along east side of Cardo IV Inferiore, towards entrance doorway.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

IV.2 Herculaneum, July 2015. Looking towards bench outside entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

IV.2 Herculaneum, July 2015. Looking towards bench outside entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

IV.2 Herculaneum, June 2005. North side of entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

IV.2 Herculaneum, June 2005. North side of entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

 

IV.2 Herculaneum, June 2005. Detail of upper wall on north side of entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

IV.2 Herculaneum, June 2005. Detail of upper wall on north side of entrance doorway.

Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

 

IV.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. Looking east to open entrance doorway, but closed to visitors!  Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

IV.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. Looking east to open entrance doorway, but closed to visitors!

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

IV.2 Herculaneum, February 2007. Looking east towards entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

IV.2 Herculaneum, February 2007. Looking east towards entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006. Looking east to entrance doorway.

IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006. Looking east to entrance doorway.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, June 2005. Entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

IV.2, Herculaneum, June 2005. Entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, June 2005. Detail of façade above entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

IV.2, Herculaneum, June 2005. Detail of façade above entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

 

Cardo IV Inferiore, Herculaneum. 1935. Photo by Fratelli Alinari (I.D.E.A.). Alinari No 43137 (1935) oN.  Looking north from III.17, Casa dell’Ara Laterizia or House of the Brick Altar, on left, and IV.2, Casa dell’ Atrio a mosaico or House of the Mosaic Atrium, on right.  The colonnade in the centre of the photo is outside III.14, Casa a Graticcio or House of the Wattle Work (Opus Craticium),  Used with the permission of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. File name instarchbx116im013 Resource ID 42232.

Cardo IV Inferiore, Herculaneum. 1935. Photo by Fratelli Alinari (I.D.E.A.). Alinari No 43137 (1935) oN.

Looking north from III.17, Casa dell’ Ara Laterizia or House of the Brick Altar, on left, and IV.2, Casa dell’ Atrio a mosaico or House of the Mosaic Atrium,

on right.  The colonnade in the centre of the photo is outside III.14, Casa a Graticcio or House of the Wattle Work (Opus Craticium),

Used with the permission of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. File name instarchbx116im013 Resource ID 42232.

See photo on University of Oxford HEIR database

 

Cardo IV Inferiore, Herculaneum. October 2014. Looking north along east side, with doorway to IV.2.  Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

Cardo IV Inferiore, Herculaneum. October 2014. Looking north along east side, with doorway to IV.2.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

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IV.2 Herculaneum, October 2014. Doorway to room with steps, on north side of entrance corridor,

but “non entrata”.  Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

IV.2 Herculaneum, June 2005. Looking towards west wall with steps, in room on north side of entrance corridor.
Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

IV.2 Herculaneum, June 2005.

Looking towards west wall with steps, in room on north side of entrance corridor.

Photo courtesy of Nicolas Monteix.

 

Ins. IV.2, Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking north-east from entrance doorway.

IV.2, Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards north wall of entrance corridor.

 

Ins. IV.2, Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards south wall of entrance corridor.

IV.2, Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking towards south wall of entrance corridor.

 

IV.2/1, Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking east from entrance doorway.
Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

IV.2/1, Herculaneum, September 2016. Looking east from entrance doorway.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, October 2012. Looking east from entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

IV.2, Herculaneum, October 2012. Looking east from entrance doorway.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, August 2013. Looking east along entrance corridor towards atrium, from entrance doorway. Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

IV.2, Herculaneum, August 2013. Looking east along entrance corridor towards atrium, from entrance doorway.

Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, October 2012. Looking east along entrance corridor towards atrium, from entrance doorway.  Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

IV.2, Herculaneum, October 2012. Looking east along entrance corridor towards atrium, from entrance doorway.

Photo courtesy of Michael Binns.

 

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IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006. Entrance corridor, looking east.

 

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IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006.

Looking east across mosaic in entrance corridor, described by Maiuri as being a sort of carpet effect.  

 

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IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2001. Looking east across mosaic in entrance corridor across atrium to oecus.

Photo courtesy of Current Archaeology.

 

Ins. IV.2, Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking east towards atrium, under restoration.

IV.2, Herculaneum, September 2015. Looking east towards atrium, under restoration.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, August 2013. Looking east towards atrium showing the undulation of the mosaic flooring and impluvium. Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

IV.2, Herculaneum, August 2013.

Looking east towards atrium showing the undulation of the mosaic flooring and impluvium.

Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006. Impluvium in atrium.

IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006. Impluvium in atrium.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006. North end of atrium, looking east.

IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006. North side of atrium, looking east.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006. South side of atrium.

IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006. South side of atrium.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, August 2013. Looking east across atrium towards oecus. 
Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

IV.2, Herculaneum, August 2013. Looking east across atrium towards oecus.

Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee.

 

IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006. Looking east across atrium towards tablinum.

IV.2, Herculaneum, May 2006. Looking east across atrium towards oecus.

 

 

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Plan