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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:04

Empire: Painted Garden, Villa of Livia

Video transcript

[Music] it's a hot day in Rome but you know the ancient Romans had figured out how to stay cool they did we're in a room that reconstructs a room in the villa of livia Livia was the wife of the Emperor Augustus there was a lovely summer house a resort of sorts and in the villa there was one room that was partially underground dunking to the rock which meant they would stay much cooler in the summer and you can really appreciate that today but the sense of coolness would come not only from the actual temperature but also from the decoration from the very cool colors that this room is painted in what the artist did was paint an amazing illusion of a landscape a garden as though the walls were not walls at all but views out beyond a fence beyond a wall with trees and bushes and fruits and plants and birds it's as if the walls have literally dissolved and this was a great example of the second style of Roman wall painting the first eye was characterized by an attempt to recreate in paint and stucco the marble walls that would have decorated Greek palaces that kind of faux marble a kind of Trump void exactly now here instead of the illusion of marble the artist has created an illusion of nature and its nature that spreads out all around us and it's not a menacing nature it's a beautiful cultivated nature it's full of playful birds there's fruit in the trees there are blossoms everywhere and there's white their deceased atmospheric perspective so that the trees and leaves that are closest to us are rendered more crisply than vegetation the background the only real architecture that's representative is as you mentioned a straw fence perhaps and then something that's a little bit more substantial and a kind of pink grade the artist is used that outer wall in order to create a subtle rendering of perspective and you can see that as the wall reaches out in a couple of places to enclose trees they're just at the border so we see poppies and roses and irises and pomegranates and quince so there's a real sense of variety in the plants and the flowers in the fruit in the types of birds that we see in the positions of the birds somewhat their wing stretched back some sitting quietly some in the sky there's a real search for the variety of nature my favorite part is on this one tree that is framed by that biggest grey wall the branches move in exactly the type hazard way that a tree grows and then there are places where we see light on the leaves and branches and other places where the leaves are in shadow it seems as if actually there's a breeze that's come up and it's blown some of those leaves over so that we're seeing the more silvery underside and then we get the darker shadows of the tops of the leaves so there's this real sense the momentary and of this being a kind of breezy beautiful day you can almost hear the leaves rustle in the wind I think my favorite plant is probably the acanthus that grows up around a pine on one of the short sides of the room and probably the other element that I find most interesting is that in this open-air space there is perched precariously on that outer wall a birdcage now throughout this entire room there are paintings of birds that are free and flying through the open sky but here we have a bird in a cage and it reminds me as I stand in this room that although these walls have dissolved I'm still inside [Music]