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Posts Tagged ‘mueum visits’

On a sunny morning in AD 79 the residents of Pompeii, a bustling Ancient Roman city located near the Bay of Naples, started the day like any other – opening shops, negotiating deals, preparing meals – unaware of what was headed their way. Although nearby Mount Vesuvius was sending clues in the form of earth tremors, people were used to those and paid little attention. Then, Vesuvius erupted. Before long the sun was completely blocked by thick gray smoke. From the black sky came pellets of pumice and rock, some rocks large enough to knock people out. Over the next 18 hours the volcano spewed 10 billion tons of pumice, rock, ash and poisonous gasses all over Pompeii and nearby villages, collapsing homes and killing thousands of people. By the time Mount Vesuvius had exhausted itself, the city was completely buried; preserved from the passage of time until its rediscovery centuries later.

Last Supper in Pompeii: From the Table to the Grave, on now at The Legion of Honor in San Francisco, exhibits artifacts from Pompeii excavations that give us a peek at people’s daily activities in Pompeii, particularly around food, which was of great cultural importance. With an abundance of all tasty edibles at an easy reach – seafood, grapes for wine, produce – food and dining were central to Pompeii lifestyle, much like it is in our modern times.

“Last Supper in Pompeii brings us into the world of ancient Rome by focusing on the particulars of everyday life, influenced by the extensive, rich, and complex relationships between food, drink, and society,” says Renee Dreyfus, Distinguished Curator and Curator in Charge of Ancient Art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “The objects on view not only capture our imagination but also whet our appetite, informing us of the glory that once was Rome.”

Touring the galleries I sunk deep into imagining what life was like in Pompeii and I was struck by how, in some ways, it was similar to ours; much of their time (well, the time of their servants) was spent attending to, growing, gathering, preserving, serving, and consuming food. Food that we also enjoy today such as fish, bread, olives, nuts, fresh fruit, and of course wine. Some of the 150 objects displayed include kitchen utensils, dishware, mosaics, frescoes, and jewelry.

Image courtesy of Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Visitors enter the exhibition greeted by a marble sculpture of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and fertility. Each gallery tells the story of food production and consumption. We see from the displayed frescoes that, like today, there were markets, shops, restaurants and taverns, although, they were frequented by the lower classes, who didn’t have the space to store and cook their own food. Eating at home was actually a luxury. Servants prepared and served food to the wealthy who liked to show off their wealth by hosting dinner parties.

Rather than sitting at tables, dinner party guests enjoyed meals reclining on couches like this (missing the soft parts). One can just imagine men in draped togas and women in layered tunics lounging on this couch nibbling on roasted dormice and sipping wine sweetened with honey and spices.

This mosaic, part of a larger piece, depicts the abundance of seafood available to the people of Pompeii.

Food + art = a favorite combination for the Romans. In this fresco we have pomegranates, figs, and a rooster.

In this fresco we see a baker selling bread? Or a high ranking citizen giving away bread? The clue is in what he’s wearing.

These women are wearing long tunics topped with a draped shawl, called “palla.”

Of course while I was walking the galleries I was on the lookout for images of people and what they’re wearing. In ancient Rome only male citizens were permitted to don the toga. Slaves, foreigners, and women wore tunics.

Much of what we see in Last Supper in Pompeii has traveled to the US for the first time. The original exhibition, organized by the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, has been adapted and expanded for Legion of Honor visitors.

What to know before you go:

  1. Tickets are timed to keep the crowds at safe numbers and ALL visitors are required to wear masks.
  2. I noticed that people have become a little casual about maintaining a distance, so if you’re like me and sensitive to personal space, be flexible and open to moving on from crowded areas when necessary and circle back.
  3. For now the Coat Room is closed, so travel light.
  4. Backpacks have to be hand held while inside the museum.

Click here for all the latest scoop on visiting the Legion of Honor.

Don’t miss this opportunity for a little “armchair travel” as well as time travel.

Last Supper in Pompeii: From the Table to the Grave is on through August 29, 2021.

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