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The Skenographia Project: Investigating Roman Wall Paintings through Digital Visualisation

The first stage of the Skenographia Project, generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust, took place from April 2002 to October 2003. The results were so significant and promising that the KVL team has continued to develop the project ever since.

Skenographia was, in Greece and Rome, the art of scene painting used both in the theatre and in domestic and public buildings.

Although no scenic paintings from the ancient theatre survive, the many extant wall paintings from Roman houses and villas reflect, in their frequent evocations of theatre masks, performances and stage facades, this shared history.

The Skenographia Project examines several theatrically-inflected Roman frescoes from the Bay of Naples region and the city of Rome using digital visualisation methods to assess their value as sources for the history of Roman theatre, and to explore the range of roles and meanings that they may have encompassed for Roman viewers.

While the central methodological thrust of the project has been to create 3d digital models of the architecture shown in these frescoes, we emphatically do not suggest that these frescoes (or our models) represent actual theatrical stage sets. Roman fresco art was insistently playful, often combining, in a single design, elements drawn from many different areas of Roman experience and, above all, mutating them according to their own spatial and pictorial logic. Modelling the "imaginary architecture" of such frescoes, we have found, can very greatly further understanding of their techniques, patterns and preoccupations. These certainly include references to theatre and theatricalism, but are by no means limited to them.

This website, created and maintained by Martin Blazeby, represents results achieved to date, as well as work in progress. Its focus is on the process of using 3d digital modelling as a method for investigating the architectural "information" contained within the frescoes. For discussions of this work from a theatre-historical perspective, see Living Theatre: Roman Theatricalism in the Domestic Sphere by Richard Beacham and Hugh Denard (forthcoming).

Please follow the links below, or in the menu-bar to the left.


Detail of fresco from the Palaestra, Herculaneum. Photograph copyright Pedicini, 2007.