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Pompei - Laser cleaning for the Villa of the Mysteries

Restorers, after intensive preliminary tests and feasibility studies, are planning a novel Laser global cleaning work on frescos belonging to Villa of the Mysteries, within a very important restoration activity, which touches all decorations of one of the most famous “domus” in Pompei (frescos and mosaics).

Laser techniques, applied for the first time to very large painting surfaces, are indicated on parts which are extremely sensitive to chemical and mechanical agents.

The use of lasers allows a very efficient selective removal of several protection layers applied during the centuries, too.

In this work they will be used lasers produced both by El.En. (Smart Clean II) and Quanta System (Thunder Art).

Government funds applied to this project are nearly 1 Million Euro. During the whole restoration the Villa will remain open to the public.

The Villa of the Mysteries or Villa dei Misteri is a well preserved ruin of a Roman Villa which lies some 400 meters northwest of Pompei, southern Italy.

Although covered with meters of ash and other volcanic material, the villa sustained only minor damage in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, and the majority of its walls, ceilings, and most particularly its frescoes survived although partially damaged.

The Villa is named for the paintings in one room of the residence. This space may have been a triclinium, and is decorated with very fine frescoes. Although the actual subject of the frescoes is hotly debated, the most common interpretation of the images is scenes of the initiation of a woman into a special cult of Dionysus, a mystery cult that required specific rites and rituals to become a member. Out of all other interpretations, the most notable is the one of Paul Veyne, who believes that it depicts a young woman undergoing the rites of marriage.

The Villa had both very fine rooms for dining and entertaining and more functional spaces. A wine-press was discovered when the Villa was excavated and has been restored in its original location. It was not uncommon for the homes of the very wealthy to include areas for the production of wine, olive oil, or other agricultural products, especially since many elite Romans owned farmland or orchards in the immediate vicinity of their villas.

The villa may be accessed from Pompei. The villa is outside the main town, separated from it by a road with funerary monuments on either side (a necropolis) as well as the city walls. The Villa of the Mysteries is considered a suburban villa (Latin: Villa Suburbana), with a close relationship to the city, but outside the town.

The ownership of the Villa is unknown, as is the case with many private homes in the city of Pompei. However, certain artifacts give tantalizing clues. A bronze seal found in the villa names L. Istacidius Zosimus, a freedman of the powerful Istacidii family. Scholars have proposed him as the owner of the villa or overseer of reconstruction after the earthquake of 62. The presence of a statue of Livia, wife of Augustus, has caused some historians to instead declare her to be the owner.

As in other areas of Pompei and Herculaneum, a number of bodies were found in this villa, and plaster-of-paris casts were made of them.

There are many different interpretations of the frescoes, but they are commonly believed to depict a religious rite.