Portrait of baker Terentius Neo and his wife
Italy (c. 55-79)
from Pompeii. The British Museum.
I thought I’d start this week off with one of the oldest named portraits of a person of color from European Art History. This piece is a portrait of a baker, Terentius Neo, and his wife from the city of Pompeii, which was buried in volcanic ash in A.D. 79:
Pompeii and Herculaneum, two cities on the Bay of Naples in southern Italy, were buried by a catastrophic volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in just 24 hours in AD 79. This event ended the life of the cities but at the same time preserved them until rediscovery by archaeologists nearly 1700 years later. The excavation of these cities has given us unparallelled insight into Roman life.
People of Color in all walks of life have been living in Europe since Classical times, and it’s lovely to see such a detailed portrait with a name surviving after so many centuries.
Although I was sad to see that he was cropped out for the accompanying book, promotional materials and other merchandise for the exhibition at the British Museum, which is running right now until September 29: