Diameter: 14.000 cm
Width: 17.500 cm
GR 1856.12-26.1621 (Paintings 37)
Room 70: Roman Empire
Painted roundel with portraits of a man and a woman
Roman, about 30 BC-AD 50
From Pompeii, Italy
Perhaps owners of the house in which they were found
This roundel or medallion originally formed part of the decorative scheme on a painted wall in a house in Pompeii. The man is shown bare-chested and the woman, whose hairstyle suggests an Augustan date, is wearing a powder-blue tunic and a matching headband. They may have been members of the family that owned the house when the decoration was painted. The impression certainly is of realistic rather than idealized portraits. The medallion typically would have been on a wall divided into several blocks of flat colour - often red or blue - by elaborate, sometimes quite spindly elements such as columns, lamp-stands or mythical animals.
This decorative technique, known as the third Pompeiian style of wall-painting, became popular from about 30 BC until the mid-first century AD. A square panel from another third style wall, showing Ulysses and the Sirens, is also in the British Museum.
S. Walker, Roman art (London, 1991)