Life & Death: Pompeii & Herculaneum

I took in a double bill at the British Museum when I swung back into London last week. Pompeii & Ice Age. 

Ice Age was a pleasure, away from the hoards. If I’d ever know that quite so much jewellery and adornment existed made of mammoth tusk, would I ever have invested quite so much in resin and gold bling?? 

I have to say I was rather dumbstruck by the design of Pompeii. Did you run out of funds BM? I just didn’t get all that chipboard and rag-rolled decor. It would have been better to plunge the galleries into darkness, let light and beautiful object do the talking. And you do need to read the text, so why the 8 point type?

The exhibition opens with the famous contorted dog, more carbonised than frozen in time. And ends with a family, mother in the Pugilist Pose, clutching at child, overtaken by the pyroclastic surge of rocks and heated gas at 400°C causing tendons to contract violently.

In between this memento moris you will be led through life in the two towns. There are moments of sheer joy such as the mural that depicts a scenario in a tavern whereby a couple are all over one another, and a couple of chaps in the corner say “We’ll never know what he didn’t want to do to her”, demonstrating a wry wit and bitchiness in the downtown bars of Pompeii.

Having had the privilege of going to Pompeii I’ve taken in the atmosphere and been pretty moved by the event. Because so much of it is standing, so much of real life is preserved in front of you, you can’t help but immerse yourself in this life and death experience. You’ll see murals in situ, brothels, fast food outlets. And it dawns, we’re really not so different…

To take these mosaics, artefacts and discoveries out of context and place them in these uncomfortable rotunda galleries disengages all emotional connection for me. But of course not everyone is going to be able to get to the Amalfi coast and see this great city, so go if you must.

If you can get to the real thing stay at this heavenly hotel, Parco dei Principe in Sorrento. High up on the cliffs, Modernist architect Gio Ponti designed every tile, piece of furniture that populates the building. And to top it off it is set within a botanical garden. So if you Mad Dogs spend a little too long in the sun, skulk around to the Aloe Vera and dribble a little juice on the offending patch.

Parco dei Principe Hotel

British Museum

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,