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COURSE NAME: "Perception of Space: Wallpainting in the Ancient Mediterranean"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Crispin Corrado
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 3:00 PM 4:15 PM
OFFICE HOURS: By Appointment

The course examines wall painting and painted spaces in the Greek and Roman world. It focuses mainly on fresco painting, and examines the versatility and visual impact of this medium across subject, setting and viewing. Since wall painting is intimately linked to its display setting, the course will examine both the subjects and artistic approach of the paintings, and the nature of the spaces they adorned, as well as the interplay of the two-dimensional medium and its three-dimensional setting. Considerations may hence address aspects such as pictorial illusionism, public and private display, articulation of space, the role of the viewer, and the relationship between movements and viewing.

The course will examine wall painting primarily in its social and cultural contexts, and will give particular emphasis to the intersection between what is displayed, where it is displayed, and how this may have been perceived. It will examine fresco painting in the Greek and Roman world, from the Aegean Bronze Age to Late Antiquity, through formal means such as analyzing iconography, technique, and representation of space and style, and through investigation of architectural context, in order to appreciate the intended experience of the viewer. The course will therefore explore questions that in various ways relate to the process of viewing wall paintings and painted spaces. These include:

·       The relationship between painting and space: Were the mural paintings meant to extend visual space and dissolve the physical wall illusionistically? If not, were the painted elements considered viewable “art” or alternatively, simply “decoration”?

·       The relationship between painting and movement: Were paintings meant to direct visitor movement in or through painted spaces? Were the audience meant to engage with the painted scenes as static or moving viewers?

·       The relationship between painted space and viewer’s space: How may painted figures be seen to act as witnesses or participants in actions taking place in the physical space? How may paintings reflect on the owner or occupier of the space?

To augment understanding of this ancient artistic medium, pertinent ancient sources will be consulted, informing on everything from technical processes to criteria for choosing certain colors or images. The course will also provide a history of the rediscovery of the important examples studied, as well as a review of scholarly research, to date.

The course includes an all-day site visit in Rome to see in-situ wall paintings at the Domus Aurea palace of Nero, and the so-called Houses of Augustus and Livia on the Palatine Hill. The cost of this is estimated to be 30 Euro per person.


·       The course will foster a firm understanding of developments and traditions of wall painting and painted spaces in the ancient Mediterranean, and an ability to analyze trends and changes in context.               

·       The course will familiarize students with the rhetoric of painted spaces and painting styles, and will foster an  in-depth knowledge of key examples, along with the methodologies to interpret them. The aim is to cultivate an awareness of painted spaces as dynamic stages of social interaction, and an understanding of the impact of patronage and viewing.

·       The course will develop the ability to use relevant historical, art historical and architectural terminology to effect, in order to analyze art, architecture and material culture as primary sources.

·       The course will develop powers of expression, including the organization of material, participation in contextual and nuanced discussion, the focused presentation of data, experience with public speaking and presentations, and participation in debates.
The course will expand critical thinking and interpretation skills, including the reasoned consideration and evaluation of evidence and methods, interpretation of arguments presented, and reflection on context and impact.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
Roman PaintingRoger LingCambridge University Press978-0521315951     
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Aegean Painting in the Bronze AgeSara ImmerwahrPenn State University Press978-0271006284  
Cambridge History of Painting in the Classical WorldJ J Pollitt (ed.)Cambridge University Press978-0521865913   

Preparation and ParticipationStudents are expected to show up on time to class, ready to actively participate, and having completed the reading assignment for the day.10
Midterm ExamThere will be an examination midway through the semester, testing on materials covered (readings, lectures, and mural painting examples seen and discussed) to that point. The exam will include slide identifications, term definitions, and essay questions.20
Final PresentationStudents will present the final results of their research projects in class. Presentations should be full and complete, with images and optional handouts. Presentations will be between 20 - 30 minutes in length.20
Final Research PaperStudents will be required to write a research paper on a topic from a list provided. Research will progress in two phases. Phase One, due after the midterm exam, will consist of a two-page write up introducing the paper topic, and should include a thesis statement and the following information, in outline form: an introduction to the culture that produced the mural(s), the artwork(s) proper and the specific question(s) about the artwork(s) the student will be investigating, current scholarship, and plans for research. An annotated bibliography of five academic sources (not including the textbooks) should accompany this write-up. Phase Two is the final research paper, which should be at least eight to 10 pages in length (double-spaced with 1-inch margins, 10- or 12-point font size) with a cover sheet, images section, and a correctly formatted, full bibliography. Citations should be made in the form of footnotes according to MLA or Chicago Manual of Style guidelines. 25
Final ExamThe final exam will be cumulative, and will test on materials covered (readings, lectures, and mural painting examples seen and discussed) all semester. The exam will include slide identifications, term definitions, and essay questions.25

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Two unexcused absence is permitted. Punctuality is essential; three late arrivals will count as one unexcused absence. You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Readings TBA

Week 1, Day 1

Introduction to the Course


Week 1, Day 2

Overview of Rediscovery and Scholarship on Ancient Wall or Mural Paintings

The Ancient Sources

Week 2, Day 1

Fresco Painting: The Technique


Week 2, Day 2

The Roman Domus

Week 3, Day 1

Roman Wall Painting - The Four Styles, Part I


Week 3, Day 2

Roman Wall Painting - The Four Styles, Part II


Week 4, Day 1
Roman Wall Painting - Special Aspects and Examples

- Still Life

- Portraits

- Daily Life Scenes

- The "Zebra Stripe" Design


Week 4, Day 2

Roman Wall Painting - Special Aspects and Examples

- Greek Myths

- Sacral-Idyllic Landscapes

- History and Legend


Week 5, Day 1

Roman Wall Painting - Examples in Rome, Part I

Week 5, Day 2

Roman Wall Painting - Examples in Rome, Part II

Week 6, Day 1

Roman Wall Painting - Examples in the Bay of Naples, Part I


Week 6, Day 2

Roman Wall Painting - Examples in the Bay of Naples, Part II


Week 7, Day 1

No Class


Week 7, Day 2

Review for Midterm Exam


Week 8, Day 1



Week 8, Day 2

Etruscan Tomb Painting, Part I


Week 9, Day 1

Phase I of Research Papers Due

Etruscan Tomb Painting, Part II


Week 9, Day 2

Etruscan Tomb and Sarcophagus Painting, Part III


Week 10, Day 1

Paintings from Paestum


Week 10, Day 2

Macedonian Tomb Painting and the Tomb of Persephone at Vergina


Week 11, Day 1

Bronze Age Aegean, Part I


Week 11, Day 2

Bronze Age Aegean, Part II


Week 12, Day 1

Bronze Age Aegean, Part III


Week 12, Day 2

Roman Wall Painting: Further Afield

Week 13, Day 1

Roman Wall Painting: Influence on Later Art in Rome 

Week 13, Day 2

Final Project Presentations


Week 14, Day 1

Final Project Presentations


Week 14, Day 2

Final Research Papers Due

Review for Final Exam


Final Exam - TBA