Villa di Livia of Prima Porta

Villa di Livia of Prima Porta

            The Villa di Livia has the particularity that has a well-preserved extraordinary frescoes. Not to be confused with the Palatino Villa of Livia. The commentary here is about the Villa di Livia of Prima Porta. The paintings simulate the inside of a cave surrounded on all sides by a lush garden, in which the most varied plant species bloomed at the same time. Among the branches of pomegranate, peach, laurel and almond, around sixty-nine different species of birds appear here. These frescoes are in the Villa Livia at Prima Porta, Rome, Italy, where there was also found the famous statue of Augustus of Prima Porta.

To speak of these frescoes it’s neccesary to speak about the Greek painting and the Greek culture itself. The birth of Greek culture and art were born between the IX and VIII centuries before Christ on the Attica peninsula, the Peloponnese peninsula, the peninsula on the west coast of Minor Asia and the islands of the Aegean Sea. The importance of art and culture is enormous. His art comes with a dark period with a mix of new (Creto-mycenaean, who brought the taste for beauty, proportion and harmony) and old (Dorics, which provided rigidity, hardness, military spirit, sporty, and geometric style) but also had influences of Persians and Egyptians. There were three periods: the archaic period, an expanding phase where the styles are set; classical period, which is the period between the end of Persian Wars and the death of Alexander the Great, period of splendor even with civil wars; and the Hellenistic period, where Greek exports its culture to Macedonian kingdoms and it’s absorbed by the Roman Empire.
All the production of Greek painters is lost. There is only a reflection in the painted pottery and later works, like these frescoues, among others. Known painters are Parrasios, Zeuxis, Apeles and Polignoto.

About the history of the villa, was probably propiety of Livia Drusilla, wife of Augustus. In particular, there is a poetic legend of its founding, where an eagle brought down in the belly of Livia a white hen with a sprig of laurel in its beak. She consulted the soothsayers, and took care of their young hens and planted the twig, which generated a forest, where emperors tore branches they carried during battles. Because of this legend, the town was also known as ad gallinas albas.
The villa was rediscovered and explored already in 1596, but was not recognized as it was propierty of Livia until the XIX century. In 1867 was found the marble statue of Augustus of Prima Porta. The villa was built and modified in four stages, the first in the Republican era, and the last in the time of Constantine the Great. In the XIX century the villa belonged to the convent of Santa Maria in Via Lata.

In conclusion, the Villa di Livia has of the best and perfectly preserved frescoes throughout the Greek period of the Antiquity. Due to the limited repertoire of Greek painting, because it lost the majority, it makes this villa's frescoes a true wonder.
          Currently these frescoes can be visited at the Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome, Italy.

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