Monday, 22 August 2016
Livia's Dining Room
In the 1590's, a substantial villa was uncovered on the Via Lata, in the grounds of a convent. The building appeared to have been constructed in four stages, the earliest in Republican times, and the latest during the reign of Constantine the Great. In the 19th Century, the famous statue known as the Augustus of Prima Porta was found nearby, and the villa was finally identified as that which had belonged to his wife, the Empress Livia. It was known as the Villa Ad Gallinus Alba - from the pure white chickens that were reared there.
There is not a lot to see now of the actual structure, but the fresco walls of Livia's dining room have been reconstructed at Rome's national museum - the Palazzo Massimo Alle Terme.
Diners would have used the room in the cooler autumn and winter months. They would have found themselves surrounded by a beautiful garden of trees and bushes, with a pale blue sky. Birds and animals are to be seen amongst the foliage. The effect would have been like dining al fresco on a warm summer's day.
Very little remains of the vaulting that would have gone above, save for a few pieces of stucco work.
The room in which the dining room frescoes are housed has a number of very comfortable, though somewhat low, padded benches. It is an ideal spot in which to rest your weary feet, and contemplate how the room might have looked had you been fortunate enough to be one of Livia's dinner guests - provided you don't subscribe to the Gravesian image of her as an arch poisoner...