Exhibition includes over 80 masterpieces from the National Archaeological Museum, Naples


The National Archaeological Museum, Naples is traveling a number of collection highlights to North America for the first time in its landmark new exhibition, “The Painters of Pompeii: Roman Frescoes from the National Archaeological Museum, Naples.” Opening June 26, 2021 and running through Sept. 26, 2021, this historic presentation of the art of painting in ancient Rome will be exhibited exclusively at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art before returning to Europe. This exhibition is organized by the National Archaeological Museum, Naples and MondoMostre.


“We are honored to be working with the National Archaeological Museum, Naples with its incredible collection of Roman antiquities,” said Dr. Michael J. Anderson, OKCMOA president and CEO. “Particularly unique is its extensive collection of Roman paintings preserved by the Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD. As one of only two large bodies of ancient painting to survive into our own time, the opportunity to see these works in the United States truly qualifies as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There is no better glimpse into daily life in ancient Rome than these fresco paintings, and now our audience will have the opportunity to see them in person the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.”


“We are extremely appreciative of MondoMostre’s hard work in organizing and securing this incredible exhibition for Oklahoma, especially during this uniquely challenging moment. After the popularity of our last collaboration, ‘Matisse in His Time,’ we are looking forward to bringing another unparalleled exhibition to OKC. It is rare for these works to travel outside Italy, especially due to their delicate nature, and we are very proud to serve as the exclusive venue for this historic show.”


Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, burying much of the countryside around the Bay of Naples, including the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The eruption preserved the cities until excavations began in the 1700s. Excavations unearthed extensive and richly colored frescoes painted on the walls of homes and public buildings throughout the cities. The exhibition highlights this snapshot in time through over 80 artifacts and artworks.


“Ancient paintings, unlike sculpture, are extremely fragile and rarely survive,” said Dr. Rosie May, director of curatorial affairs and audience engagement. “As a result, we have very few examples of painting from antiquity. This is a really exciting collection because it provides insight into the history of Roman wall painting and a glimpse into how this art form functioned in the culture of Ancient Rome. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius froze these cities at the height of the Roman Empire which allows us to learn so much about the day-to-day life of its citizens.”


“The Painters of Pompeii” highlights a seldom seen medium of art, the Roman wall painting, which was pervasive in Ancient Rome. The interiors of Roman buildings were sumptuously decorated with bold colors and designs that ranged from mythology to landscapes to gardens to architecture. Often, these paintings covered the entire wall, from floor to ceiling, and transported the viewer beyond the confines of the room.


The exhibition will also take the visitor into the rarely explored world of the Ancient Roman painter and offer a glimpse into the process, materials and techniques that were used to create these frescoes. 


“With travel international travel virtually impossible right now, and with future plans very difficult to make,” said Dr. Anderson, “we feel that this is the perfect time to bring Pompeii to North American audiences.”


Classes offering a virtual visit to Naples and Southern Italy exploring the history, culture, food and wine will begin in January. Additionally, kids can look forward to virtually exploring archeology, Roman deities and mythology through family-oriented virtual classes in the spring. During the exhibition, the museum plans to host a series of lectures in the Noble Theater with several of the most renowned scholars in the field of Ancient Roman Art and History. This lecture series is possible thanks to generous support from Oklahoma Humanities.


Those with groups of 15 or more may book a guided tour. Group reservations, including school tour reservations, can be made by calling (405) 278-8213.


The exhibition will be free for Museum members. Tickets will go on sale in the spring of 2021, will be timed and will limit capacity to ensure the safety of visitors. Pre-sales will be strongly encouraged for this high-demand North American exclusive.


More information is available on OKCMOA’s website, okcmoa.com.