Nero's Domus Aurea
Reconstruction and Reception of the Volta Dorata

  • Author Marco Brunetti
  • Series Studi della Bibliotheca Hertziana, 15
  • Binding Hardcover
  • Size 20.5 x 27.5 cm
  • Pages 400
  • Illustrations 260
  • Language English
  • Year 2022
  • ISBN 9788836650477
  • Price € 49,00  € 46,55
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The Volta Dorata is the vault of Room 80 in Rome’s Domus Aurea, built by Emperor Nero in AD 64–68. The function of Room 80 as a luxury triclinium, its central location, and the artistic taste of its owner all played a prominent role in the elaboration and definition of the refined decorative system of the vault. This book provides a critical analysis and comparison of all graphic works – including drawings, watercolours, and coloured engravings – depicting the Volta Dorata since its discovery in the 1470s by early Renaissance artists and antiquarians. The research mainly addresses two strictly related issues. One issue concerns the original appearance of the vault and the relation between its decoration and the myths that literary sources indicate as Nero’s favourites and those of Neronian literature. The other issue regards the working methods employed across the centuries by artists copying the Neronian vault and the Volta Dorata’s influence on artists and artefacts.

Marco Brunetti is a postdoctoral fellow at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History, working on Renaissance drawings of Roman antiquities and the Renaissance topography of Rome. After receiving an academic education at the University of Bologna and the IMT – School for Advanced Studies of Lucca (Italy), he was awarded fellowships by the DAAD Germanic Academic Exchange Service (2019–2020) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2022–2024). He spent time training and researching at the British Museum and Gallerie degli Uffizi, and is currently collaborating with the Census Project of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Euploos Project of the Gallerie degli Uffizi. He has published articles in renowned scientific journals, such as Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome and Papers of the British School at Rome.





Chapter 1. The Oppian Building and its History: From Antiquity to the 21st Century
1. The Current Remains of the Domus Aurea. The Oppian Building: Chronological Phases and Possible Function
2. After Nero and Before the 15th Century Rediscovery
3. From the Rediscovery of the Domus Aurea to the End of the 16th Century
4. The 17th Century
5. The 18th Century
6. The 19th Century: From Titus’ Baths to the Domus Aurea
7. The 20th and 21st Centuries: Recent Studies and New Excavations
8. Literary Sources

Chapter 2. The Paintings of the Volta Dorata through Archaeological Evidence and Graphic Documentation
1. Room 80: The Location within the Oppian Building, Decorations, and the State of Conservation
   1.1 Room 80 as Part of the Oppian Building
   1.2 Room 80: Architecture, Marble, and Painting Decoration
   1.3 Room 80 and Famulus, the Gravis and Severus Painter

2. The Volta Dorata
   2.1 Dimensions and the Geometrical System
   2.2 The Decorative System of the Volta Dorata: Colours and Types of Decorations
   2.3 The Figural Programme of the Volta Dorata: The ‘Central Medallion’
   2.4 The Figural Programme of the Volta Dorata: The ‘Internal Area’
   2.5 The Figural Programme of the Volta Dorata: The ‘External Frieze’
   2.6 A New Possible Interpretation for Scene 2: An Unparalleled Iconography of the Myth of Aeneas and Dido?
   2.7 Some Final Observations: The Figurative System and Literary Themes

3. Hypothetical Reconstructions of the Volta Dorata and Room 80
   3.1 The Volta Dorata: A Hypothetical Reconstruction
   3.2 Room 80: A Hypothetical Reconstruction

Chapter 3. The Reception of the Volta Dorata in the Renaissance and the History of its Graphic Documentation
1. The ‘Copying Process’ in the Renaissance Drawings of the Volta Dorata
2. The Drawings of the Volta Dorata: The Draftsmen, their Interests, and the ‘Copying Methodologies’
3. From Model to Re-Elaboration
4. The History of Graphic Documentation after the 16th Century: Some Issues about the Drawing from the Antique
5. The 17th Century: Pietro Santi Bartoli
6. The 18th Century: Ludovico Mirri’s Artists
7. A Brief Overview of Drawings of the 19th and 20th Centuries
8. Conclusions and Final Considerations
9. Appendix I – Subjects Depicted in Francisco de Hollanda’s Album of Drawings (Os Desenhos das Antigualhas)
10. Appendix II – Annotations on the Drawings of the Hertziana Album (inv. Dv 570–340 gr raro)

11. Appendix III – Ludovico Mirri’s Engravings Album (Mirri/Carletti 1776), Louvre Album des Bains de Titus (Coloured Engravings), Giuseppe Carletti’s Descriptions (Carletti 2014)


Catalogue of Graphic Documents
1. Introduction to the Catalogue
2. List of Graphic Documents
Cat. 1
Cat. 2
Cat. 3
Cat. 4
Cat. 5
Cat. 6
Cat. 7
Cat. 8
Cat. 9
Cat. 10
Cat. 11
Cat. 12
Cat. 13
Cat. 14
Cat. 15
Cat. 16
Cat. 17
Cat. 18
Cat. 19
Cat. 20
Cat. 21
Cat. 22
Cat. 23
Cat. 24
Cat. 25
Cat. 26

Works Cited

Index of Most Relevant Names

Index of Places and Works Mentioned

Photo Credits