Hello Perdix, You Old Friend


Today Narayan Nayar and I took the train to Pompeii to look at a fresco that features Perdix, a Roman workbench and some adult content suitable for Cinemax. (“Oh my, I don’t think I have enough money for this pizza.” Cue the brown chicken, brown cow soundtrack.)

As we got off the train, my heart was heavy with dread. Yesterday, our visit to Herculaneum blew my mind but was disappointing in one small way: The House of the Deer was closed that day to visitors. The House of Deer had once housed a woodworking fresco that has since been removed and has since deteriorated. So all I was going to get to see was the hole in the wall where the fresco had been.

But still.

So as I got off the train this morning, I fretted: What if the House of the Vettii is closed? After a not-quick lunch that involved togas (don’t ask), Narayan and I made a beeline to the House of the Vettii. And as I feared, its gate was locked. The structure is in the midst of a renovation and was covered in tarps and scaffolding.

I peered through the gate and saw someone moving down a hallway inside. He didn’t look like a worker. He looked like a tourist. Then I saw another tourist.


We quickly figured out that a side entrance was open and they were allowing tourists into a small section of the house. I rushed into that entryway and waved hello to Priapus. After years of studying the map of this house I knew exactly where to go. I scooted past a gaggle of kids on spring break and into the room with the fresco I’ve been eager to see for too long.

It’s a miracle this fresco has survived – not just the eruption of Vesuvius but also the looters and custodian that decided (on behalf of Charles III) which images to keep and which ones to destroy. (Why destroy a fresco? According to the Archaeological Museum of Naples, many were destroyed so they didn’t get into the hands of “foreigners or imitators.”) The royal collection preferred figurative scenes or ones with winged figures. For some reason, this one stayed in place and has managed to survive.


Narayan spent the next 40 minutes photographing the fresco in detail. The photos in this blog entry are mere snapshots I took with my Canon G15. His images will be spectacular.

OK, enough babbling. I need some pizza. Thank goodness they’re only about 4 Euro here.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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8 Responses to Hello Perdix, You Old Friend

  1. nrhiller says:

    Can’t wait to see those pictures. Wonderful quote about destroying stuff so it doesn’t fall into the hands of thieves or imitators.

  2. Mark Baker says:

    What were their woods back then I wonder ?

  3. Christopher. Have you seen or considered seeing the iron Roman plane found at Silchester that I believe is held together with lots of other things from the only civilian town in Roman Britain. I used to live there so I have a special interest. Many of the walls and parts of the amphitheatre still stand and a Christian church stands over the site of a Roman temple that may be on the site of a pre Roman holy place.

  4. charlie says:

    What does the painting as a whole represent?

  5. Ah, Priapus, that ol’ scamp. I was at that doorway quite a few years ago with a colleague, and we saw a couple kids staring at him, mouths agape. My companion gave them a big grin and said, “Whaddya think of THAT?” Needless to say, I fled the scene as quickly as possible.

  6. potomacker says:

    This fresco doesn’t quite jibe with the version in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

  7. Alex A. says:

    “Que the brown chicken, brown cow soundtrack.”
    This managed to evoke an audible chuckle.

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