The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is bringing Pompeii back to life, from February 6 to September 5, 2016, in the largest exhibition ever to be presented in Quebec on this iconic Roman city at the time Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.
The exhibition has been organized by the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and the MMFA, in collaboration with the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli and the Soprintendenza Pompei. A selection of more than 220 of the best preserved works from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, the largest repository of archeological objects, and from the site of Pompeii itself, which is managed by the Soprintendenza Pompei. Some of the works come from the neighbouring city of Herculanum.
The MMFA is officially opening the exhibition in the presence of Professor Stefano Vanacore, director of the restoration laboratory in Pompeii (Soprintendenza Pompei), His Excellency Gian Lorenzo Cornado, Ambassador of Italy, and Enrico Padula, Consul General of Italy in Montreal, and Filippo Lonardo, Vice-Consul of Italy in Montreal.
“Anyone who has visited the Pompeii and Herculanum has had the strange and unforgettable feeling of familiarity with their inhabitants, their monuments and their everyday objects. Equally unforgettable are the emotions sparked by the body casts,” said Nathalie Bondil, the Museum’s Director and Chief Curator. “This is why I wanted to create an evocative experience in Montreal, with a unique immersive exhibition that goes beyond the rare artefacts, the precious objects and the many generously loaned items.”
With thematic sections and an immersive installation designed for the MMFA, the exhibition will take visitors on a journey through time and space, where past and present interact. They will have an opportunity to imagine what daily life in Pompeii was like when the volcano erupted in 79 A.D.
"This exhibition on Pompeii offers us an unparalleled view into the public, private and intimate realms of Romans who lived two thousand years ago," explained Paul Denis, principal curator of the exhibition and assistant curator at the ROM.
“When I was eight years old, I too was transfixed by Pompeii,” added Laura Vigo, the MMFA’s Italian archeologist and the exhibition’s co-curator. “I remember, as it was yesterday, walking through those ancient streets, peering through the crumbling walls of once-majestic residences, glancing at frescoes or even at the plaster casts of the victims caught exhaling their last breath under the wrath of Vesuvius. As a child, and even today as an adult, I felt as if I could grasp the transient shadows of ancient life as it once was, two thousand years before me. This is the immense charm of Pompeii.”
The exhibition presents the citizens of Pompeii, their history, their appetite for life and their delight in the sensual, as seen in the 220 work on display. It includes frescos, mosaics and statues in various materials (bronze, terra cotta and marble), luxurious accessories, silverware, everyday utensils, religious paraphernalia and an exquisite selection of erotica from the Secret Cabinet of the National Archeological Museum in Naples.
The MMFA has added three pieces to the Montreal leg of the exhibition from the National Museum of Archeology in Naples that show the importance of physical activity and fitness for Pompeiians: fragments of a fresco depicting wrestlers, a strigil (a scraper for cleansing the skin) and an aryballos (a flask for massage oil). The exhibition also includes some works from the MMFA: the very fine Harry A. Norton collection of Roman glass from the first century and some coins recently acquired from Dr. Demers