Hanging Garlands of Pompeii

It’s been quite a summer of catching up on work–but the fruit of those labors began to ripen. In May, my article, “The Hanging Garlands of Pompeii: Mimetic Acts of Ancient Lived Religion,” appeared in Arts journal, which you can find through Open Access here. Full abstract below.


I was lucky enough, after its publication, to be contacted by Garland Magazine, to be interviewed for a podcast series they produce. We were able to discuss how the intersection of two-dimensional painted garlands of Pompeii and the three-dimensional devotional act of hanging a physical garlands directly atop the image–in an attempt to think about garlands as living objects and the daily practices of ancient Romans. You can find the podcast here.

Article abstract:

Roman painting is full of items associated with religious practice. Garlands, in particular, are found represented in Roman frescoes, often draped over different panels to enliven the painted surface with the semblance of abundant fresh flowers. There are indications, however, that in Roman domestic spaces, latrines, and streets, physical garlands were actually attached to the frescoes as votive offerings that mimic the painted garlands behind them. This paper considers how Roman paintings worked in tandem with garlands and other physical objects, and how Pompeiians engaged in mimetic acts. The two-dimensional painted surface depicting “mimetic votives” should be viewed within a three-dimensional space inhabited by people and objects. The mimetic act of hanging a garland was part of ancient lived religion, and, as such, enables us to examine past religious experiences, focusing on the individual and communication with the divine. The relationship between these various visual media would have created unique experiences in the daily lives of ancient Romans that are rarely considered today.


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