Pompeii's X-rated art will titillate a new generation
By Michael Day in Milan
Saturday, 15 May 2010
Pompeii's saucy heyday might be a little behind it but the ancient city's power to intrigue, delight and even titillate remains intact – as proved by the hundreds of visitors queuing this weekend for an adults-only viewing of its most-erotic artwork.
The famous wall paintings in its ancient suburban baths will be spotlighted in a special night-time "sound-and-light" show, which say the organisers, will give visitors "their best view yet" of the pictures, which leave very little to the imagination.
Experts say the 16 paintings, depicting group and oral sex, have no equivalent at any other ancient Roman site; as such they have fuelled much debate since they were discovered 50 years ago. Some historians believe they were painted to advertise services on offer at the baths, or that they were merely a way of reminding bathers which locker they put their clothes in.
As an end note, I was able to spend some time in Pompeii's Suburban baths last field season studying the artwork and giving some thought as to their function and purpose.
The paintings are indeed striking and provocative. As the article mentions, they have indeed fuelled some debate amongst scholars in recent times. No evidence exists for an attached brothel to the baths and there is no precedent for such artwork to exist simply as a reminder for the baths clients to remember where they left their things.