Restoration work at the House of the Vettii in Pompeii has been completed, meaning that the Roman building can now welcome visitors after a long period of closure. The house, which belonged to the brothers Aulus Vettius Conviva and Aulus Vettius Restitutus, thought to have been freedmen who made a fortune through wine, has been closed for 20 years apart from a brief partial reopening of the entrance hall and atrium in 2016.
Thanks to the restoration project, which began in 2016, visitors can now see the lavish rooms, whose frescoes include a figure of Priapus weighing his phallus against a bag of coins in the vestibulum and a long sequence of playful cupids participating in a range of activities, from selling flowers to metalwork, in the reception room (dubbed the ‘Room of the Cupids’). Another room, off the kitchen, has small erotic paintings and an inscription referring to a Greek woman named Eutychis and a fee of two copper asses, suggesting that prostitution was part of the household activities.
In previous work, the frescoes had been covered with wax in order to protect and enhance them, but this actually caused damage and obscured details. These layers of wax have now been carefully removed. Another target for the restoration team was the reinforced concrete roof of the peristyle, which has been replaced, and the peristyle garden itself, where copies of the original sculptures are displayed and where ancient species grown in the Archaeological Park of Pompeii’s nursery have been planted.
In the UK, Manchester Museum opens its doors on 18 February after a major transformation, which features a new extension to the Victorian Gothic Revival building and several new galleries, aiming to reflect the diversity of the city of Manchester and to tackle the legacy of colonialism. Among the new spaces is an exhibition hall, which is inaugurated with Golden Mummies of Egypt, a travelling exhibition drawing on the museum’s Egyptological collections. Displaying the funerary finds alongside diaries of the archaeologists who excavated and investigated them, the exhibition sets out to demonstrate Victorian attitudes towards Egypt and mummification, and how these views should be reconsidered.
Other important additions are the Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery and the multilingual South Asia Gallery, which has been developed in partnership with the British Museum and is devoted to the history of South Asian diaspora communities, as well as touching on topics like the Indus Valley Civilisation and female figures of the Mughal Empire.
Also opening on 18 February is a new art museum in the Indian city of Bengaluru: the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP). Its collections, on display in a new building by architects Mathew & Ghosh, present a broad sweep of South Asian visual culture from the 10th century AD to the present, encompassing temple art from southern India, bronze sculptures of religious figures from the Chola period (c.850-1250), textiles, printing and advertising, and contemporary art. Among the inaugural exhibitions is Visible/Invisible: representation of women in art through the MAP collection, which brings together some 130 works in different media to look at the depiction of women in relation to divinity, sexuality, power and violence, and struggle and resistance over time.