What is the Domus Aurea?
Here is a short introduction from the website. Fascinating history!
Take a look at this drawing which shows the remains which are four times the size of a US football field and they contain wall decorations and frescoes in an area 30 times the size of the Sistine Chapel! Would have been wonderful to see this in its grandeur. However Nero’s successors tried to wipe out any trace of Nero, including this grand architectural achievement.
Now let’s take a tour of the remains which we were fortunate enough to attend. The site is open to the public only a few months a year. Tours in English are limited. So we have decided to post lots of detailed images so our visitors can get a glimpse of this remarkable history. Here is a quick view of the various rooms we viewed. The story is:
“Sunlight flooded the rooms opening onto this southern front, but even inside the complex light penetrated into the rooms through peristyles and courtyards, as well as through windows opening into the walls and vaults.
This fundamental feature of the architectural project was definitively lost when Trajan turned the building into a vast underground container, filled with earth and rubble and reinforced with massive walls that cut through the larger rooms; it served as a foundation for the bath complex built on the summit of the hill.”
The Octagonal Room
This was the most impressive area of the Domus. Theories are that it was a “party” room or a room where ceremonies and rituals were performed. The dome in the Pantheon is said to be patterned after this one.
It is astonishing that anything has survived almost two thousands years. Yet in many places we can see the original paint of the Roman artists. Michelangelo and Raphael, among others were inspired by the art. They lowered themselves down on ropes, carrying candles and art materials so they could copy the ancient masterpieces.
“Nero’s palace was first frequented in the Renaissance; by lowering themselves down from ground level, numerous artists managed to copy the subjects depicted on the vaults of many rooms that, still full of earth, looked like true grottoes. The books of copies circulated in Rome and, soon after, outside the city as well, leading to the dissemination of all those fantastic motifs known as “grotesques” which from then on were replicated in new paintings, sculptures and even on pottery.
Despite some differences with respect to what now survives, these antique drawings are of great help in reconstructing the original design of the painted decorations.
In this part of the palace, whose paintings are generically inspired by Greek mythology, the use of stucco is sparing and illusionistic architectural perspectives are rare; the characteristic feature of the paintings is the extremely fine detail of the decorative motifs, repeated in such a variety of combinations that they prevail over the figurative scenes.
The walls with a black, red or dark yellow background are generally subdivided by festoons, candelabra, plant tendrils or garlands into frames with small figurative panels at their centre; the surface of the vaults and lunettes, with a lace motif in a variety of colours, is reminiscent of the luxurious tapestries popular at the court of Alexandria, vividly described by ancient authors.”
See more wonderful ceiling art and decorations in the gallery below.