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Art Through Time: A Global View

Domestic Life Compare: What Is the Role of Painting in Domestic Life?

Theatrical decoration with figures

Theatrical decoration with figures
Artist / Origin: Unknown artist, Pompeii, Italy
Region: Europe
Date: ca. 1st century
Period: 1 CE – 500 CE
Material: Fresco
Medium: Painting
Location: Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, Italy
Credit: Courtesy of Art Resource, NY/Photo by Erich Lessing

Grapevine in the Wind

Grapevine in the Wind
Artist / Origin: Korean artist
Region: East Asia
Date: Chosôn Dynasty, 16th century
Period: 1400 CE – 1800 CE
Material: Ink on silk
Medium: Painting
Dimensions: H: 31 ½ in. (80 cm.), W: 15 ¾ in. (40 cm.)
Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Credit: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY

What is the role of painting in domestic life?

Painting played an important role in the homes of both the Roman nouveaux riches living in Pompeii and the yangbang elite of Korea’s Chosôn period. Although the form and style that painting took in each case was very different, it maintained some essential functions across time and geography. Like all art in the domestic sphere, both the Roman wall paintings and the Chosôn hanging scrolls embellished their respective spaces, delighting the eyes of residents and visitors alike. At the same time, they served a sociocultural function, providing information about the cultural values and social status of their owners.

Questions to Consider

  • The wall paintings of Pompeii were given permanence through the medium of fresco. In contrast, hanging scrolls were a kind of temporary decoration that were sometimes displayed, sometimes rolled up and put away. What do you think were the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of domestic decoration?
  • Describe the content and style of each of these paintings. What does each communicate about the aesthetic values of the owner of the home in which it was seen? What do you think each was intended to communicate to visitors in the home?
  • Think about the kinds of images that you display in your own home or living space and those that you have seen in the residences of others. How do these compare to the examples seen here?

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Art Through Time: A Global View


Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
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