The Archaeological Museum of Palermo (Sicily) has recently presented the results of the restoration of three wall paintings from the House of the Masks of Solunto archaeological site. These significant paintings, dating back to the first century BCE, are the most significant examples of Pompeian style discovered in Sicily to date. The cycle of frescoes unearthed is the best preserved and most complete example of wall painting dating to the Republican Roman period in Sicily. This house was a luxurious private residence built on two floors and centred around a peristyle. This fresco cycle embellished the walls of a banquet room (oecus) discovered during an archaeological excavation carried out by Giovanni Patricolo in 1869. The House of the Masks definition was suggested by Salemi Pace in 1872 when he published the discovery of frescoes with colourful garlands and theatrical masks. In 1874, five panels were detached from the walls and moved to the National Museum of Palermo for conservation purposes. The recent careful cleaning of the pictorial surfaces and the new archaeological and archaeometric research revealed unusual details about the pictorial technique and newly painted subjects. The scientific investigation was preliminarily based on a non-destructive approach, performed in situ using portable equipment and subsequently, the further examination of a micro fragment using micro-destructive investigation. X-ray fluorescence analysis was carried out to identify the original pictorial palette, and electron microprobe analyses coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy to define the alteration products. Finally, infrared imaging provided new data about the pictorial technique and iconography. The new archaeometric evidence sheds light on these rare examples of Roman wall painting in the Sicilian Roman province, which until today have not been systematically studied from the point of view of materials and execution techniques, confirming the dating and connections with contemporary workshops active in other Roman provinces.
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