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Research Projects of the University of Cologne‘s Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Villa A von Oplontis. Foto: Ph. Groß

Sculptural Furnishing and
Architectural Decoration
of the Villas in Oplontis

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Dietrich Boschung | Research Archive for Ancient Sculpture

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

The villas of Oplontis, located on the Gulf of Naples and in close proximity to the modern town of Torre Annunziata, were covered by volcanic material after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. Since their rediscovery, they have been systematically excavated and the findings have been published in a series of preliminary reports. The elaborately decorated Structure A could be identified as the villa of the empress Poppaea (ca. 30-65 CE), the wife of the emperor Nero. Previous research revealed that the initial structure was erected during Caesar’s reign; a later one was renovated in several phases. The structure seems to have been under construction during the volcanic burial of the region.
The Research Archive of Ancient Sculpture of the Archaeological Institute is working on detailed documentation of the extraordinarily high quality marble decoration of Villa A in a project funded by the DFG. This includes a spectacular group of four centaurs. The project aims to photographically document the sculpture and building ornaments (about 170 objects) and to scientifically process them. A first photographic campaign was undertaken in April of 2018. The sculptures are typologically and chronologically identified based on these images. The decoration phase to which these statues and ornaments belong is to be investigated in addition to how they were set up in the large gardens and porticoes. By analyzing production techniques and the previous study of production traces, the amount of workshops that were involved, whether older sculptures were included in the decoration of the gardens and how they were possibly moved within the villa itself will be investigated.
A second photographic campaign as well as a workshop on presentation and discussion of the preliminary findings is scheduled for April 2019. The results and their elaborate photographical documentation will be made accessible through the object and image database ARACHNE ( ). After this, a publication with select objects will be prepared in the form of a print catalogue as part of the publication series of the Research Archive of Ancient Sculpture (Monumenta Artis Romanae). The project is being undertaken in cooperation with the Parco Archeologico di Pompei.

Text: Caterina Parigi


Research Archive for Ancient Sculpture
Prof. Dr. Dietrich Boschung

Researchers: Dr. Caterina Parigi, Matthias Nieberle M.A.

E-mail cparigi(at)