The Painters of Pompeii @ The OKC MOA (Exhibit Review)

Hey friend! Welcome! Today, I am reviewing the Painters of Pompeii Exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. It opened in June and will run through October 17, 2021. You don’t want to miss this one – it’s literally a chance of a lifetime to be able to see these Ancient Roman works of art.

The collection is visiting North America for the first time from the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is the only location in the US this collection is traveling to. This exhibit features beautiful frescoes (wall paintings) from Ancient Rome.

70 frescoes comprise the collection on display at the OKC Museum of Art. There are even a few mosaic pieces which are super cool!

What are frescoes?

Frescoes are created when wet plaster is applied to a wall, then paint is applied on top which allows the colors to stay vibrant. This is a very simplified explanation – if you are interested in learning more about different types of art I recommend checking out your local art museum or you could even visit the studio of a local artist!

Frescoes are a part of the wall they’re painted on – they’re not hung on the wall like a painting today. They were permanent and full of brightly colored scenes inspired by food, mythology, jobs, and every day life. Frescoes were located in public buildings and homes all throughout the ancient cities.

History of Pompeii & Herculaneum

Back to the Painters of Pompeii, many of the frescoes in this exhibit were buried under volcanic ash and rock when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE. Pompeii and Herculaneum – two cities in the Bay of Naples – were nearly perfectly preserved.

Excavation of artifacts began on Pompeii and Herculaneum between 1594 and 1600, but they were halted due to an earthquake in 1631. The city lay untouched for over a century.

Carlo of Borbone began excavating again in 1748 to find artifacts for the Museum of Portici. He and his team found several things over the next two decades.

Eventually more men joined in the excavation effort, but this was not done systematically under Bourbon domination. Finally, Giuseppe Fiorilli instituted a system for excavating the site. Many more men were entrusted with excavating even more portions of the city and it continues to this day.

For more information about the history of Pompeii and the excavation sites, please visit the Pompeii website!

*All photos were taken at the OKC MOA in OKC, Oklahoma.

My Favorite Pieces

As a historian, my favorite part of the exhibit was the timeline that extended around the top of the room with key dates in history. I also loved all of the maps, explanations of the the buildings, and the wall plaques by each piece describing the scene, mythology, etc. I like being able to see the bigger picture – how to the art I’m looking at fits into the larger story. Basically, history.

My favorite pieces from the Pompeii site were “Mask Amidst Bunches of Grapes and Vines (9798),” “Hercules and Omphale (9000),” and “Cassandra’s Prophecy (111476).”

My favorite pieces from the Herculaneum site were “Still Life with Birds (8736),” “Villa of Papyri (9423),” and “Still Life with Papyri (4668).”

These pieces are all unique and have beautiful colors! Being in the same room as these frescoes was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am really grateful I was able to walk through this exhibit with my dad!

Concluding Thoughts

This exhibit was super cool. You don’t get to see art from Ancient Rome every day – especially in Oklahoma! The exhibit requires you to stay behind the line on the floor – if you get too close a gallery attendant will ask you to move back. We saw this happen… Please be kind to the artifacts so that many generations to come may experience the awe and wonder that is the frescoes from Pompeii and Herculaneum.

I hope you’ll go check “The Painters of Pompeii” out! Admission to the OKC MOA includes this exhibit.

Travel Tips: If you’re driving in from out of town the museum also has a cafe where you can eat! There is also paid parking across the street from the museum so you won’t have to walk very far! And make sure to stop by the museum gift shop and check out the cool things there! I got 2 magnets for my collection!

Happy art viewing! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂


415 Couch Drive

Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Phone: 405-236-3100


OKC MOA – The Painters of Pompeii

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