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Dying in beauty

On 20 November 2022, the exhibition Dying in beauty: The world of Pompeii and Herculaneum will open at the Drents Museum in Assen, with highlights from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Napels and the Parco Archeologico Ercolano in Herculaneum. This major archaeological exhibition focuses on life before the devastating volcanic eruption, and the art and beauty with which the inhabitants surrounded themselves. On display are more than 100 archaeological art treasures, including colourful frescoes, marble statues, a bronze fountain and golden jewellery. The exhibition will run until 26 March 2023. 
 
In 79 AD, the Italian port cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried when the volcano Vesuvius erupted. As a result, they became the best preserved cities from Roman times. Archaeologists have been uncovering large parts of the cities since the eighteenth century. The archaeological finds feature in the collections of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples and the Parco Archeologico di Ercolano in Herculaneum. For this exhibition, the Drents Museum is bringing the highlights to the Netherlands.
 
Living in beauty
The focus of the exhibition is on life before the eruption. Beauty and art were important to the Romans, something that is reflected in the exhibition. On display are personal items such as tableware and jewellery, as well as the statues, frescoes, mosaics and fountains that decorated the homes and gardens of rich and poor alike. The Romans admired the culture of ancient Greece, and placed statues that had previously ornamented Greek temples in their gardens. The statues thus gained a new context and were seen as art. The exhibition also focuses on the role of art in public space.
 
A unique fresco
For the Romans, beauty played a major role in identity formation. People had themselves depicted in idealised fashion on frescoes, wearing chic clothes and shown in elegant surroundings. An example is a mural from a home in Pompeii from the 1st century AD, showing the baker Terentius Neo and his wife – one of the highlights of the exhibition. 
 
Publication and activity programme
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication of the same name by Waanders Uitgevers. There is also a special route for families, an activity programme, an accompanying offering in the museum shop, and guided tours for primary and secondary schools. For the duration of the exhibition, the museum will be open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm.
 
The Drents Museum won the Museumtijdschrift’s exhibition award for two of its previous major archaeological exhibitions (Iran: Cradle of civilisation, 2019; and Ararat: Treasures from ancient Armenia, 2022).