It is the volcanic eruption that still appeals to the imagination: that of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed two Roman cities. The exhibition ‘Dying in Beauty – The World of Pompeii and Herculaneum’ will open in the Drents Museum on Sunday.

    An archeology exhibition about the rich life in the two cities before the destruction by Vesuvius. More than a hundred art treasures demonstrate how important beauty was to the Romans.

    Among the art treasures are personal objects, such as jewelery and glassware. But there are also frescoes, fountains and statues that the Romans used to decorate their houses, gardens and public buildings.

    According to Bastiaan Steffens, curator of archeology and curator of the exhibition, most exhibitions about Pompeii are about the volcanic eruption and the personal dramas. The Drents Museum now wants to do things differently.

    “We would like to show the beauty behind the volcanic eruption. So what life was like in the two cities before they were buried under the lava. And the splendor and opulence that the two cities brought with them in Roman times.”

    That beauty can be seen in a number of things, says Steffens. “How the beauty was used, for example by the art in the city. But also by how rich people showed their status at the time. And also how normal citizens of the Roman Empire cared about beauty. That also had an influence in how we now look at beauty. Because the ideal of beauty comes from somewhere.”

    The masterpiece of the collection is a fresco of the baker and his wife. “They show themselves at their best, in their Sunday clothes. In addition, the woman is depicted as an equal to the man. That is not normal for that time,” says a proud Steffens.

    A fresco is a wall or ceiling painting in which the paint is applied directly to the wet plaster.