Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The opulence of Roman bathhouses

After finding the marvelous painting of the altar with Actaeon mural at the House of Sallust by Danish artist Josef Theodor Hansen, yesterday, I hoped that, like Luigi Bazzani, Hansen may have painted an entire series of work from Pompeii. So I searched the web to see if I could find any more.  Although I only found a few more, one of them was this spectacular painting of the tepidarium at the Forum Baths in Pompeii.  Hansen specialized in architectural painting and his attention to detail made his paintings almost photographic. I also noticed that it was not on Wikimedia Commons so I uploaded it so others could use it for teaching and research.
Republican bathhouses often had separate bathing facilities for women and men, but by the 1st century CE mixed bathing was common and the practice was frequently referred to in Martial and Juvenal, as well as in Pliny and Quintilian.  But to Roman moralists like Cato the Elder, bathhouses were a symbol of decadence.  He publicly attacked Scipio Africanus for his use of the bathouses.

The Forum bathhouse in Pompeii, like other large Roman bathing facilities, was ornately decorated with marble floors and stuccoed walls and vaulted ceilings depicting scenes of mythology or athletics.  The Romans also constructed baths in their colonies, taking advantage of the natural hot springs occurring in Europe to construct baths at Aix and Vichy in France, Bath and Buxton in England, Aachen and Wiesbaden in Germany, Baden in Austria, and Aquincum in Hungary, among other locations.

Tepidarium at the Forum Baths in Pompeii by Josef Theodor Hansen, 1884, oil on canvas (Wikimedia Commons)

Closeup of sculpture and stuccoed vault of the tepidarium in the Forum Baths of Pompeii courtesy of Flickr user Jenny
 (cc by)

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