Tag Archives: fresco

A Look into Loggia at Herodium

At the Herod exhibit at the Israel museum there is a room that is a reconstruction of the loggia, the VIP box from the Herodium theater with its colorful panels on the lower part of the wall and above on light-colored plaster, unique paintings in secco, trompe de l’oeil views through an open window. Secco is a technique that requires less artisan skill and used when time is short as in the approaching visit of Marcus Aggripa in 15 BCE. In secco paint is applied on top of dry plaster whereas in fresco the paint is added while the plaster is still wet. The fresco technique requires skilled craftsmen who have to work applying small areas of plaster, smoothing it and then adding the mineral pigments.

Loggia at museum

The loggia at Herodium is not accessible to the public, room is enclosed by a wooden structure and a team of conservators are working to protect the delicate secco painting. Last week while guiding at Herodium I found the door open and was able to look in for a moment. Hence the photos below were taken in a rush, using my iPhone – since few images of the loggia have been shared I offer them for viewing here.

Loggia at Herodium

Two things struck me: 1) Through holes in the plaster you can see that the lower panels have two layers of paint and plaster implying that the walls were redecorated, probably for Marcus Aggripa’s visit. In talking to Dudi Mevorah, curator at the Israel museum, the outer layer is not fresco but a covering done in secco.

Loggia frescoes

2) There are delicate paintings still on the upper section of the wall that are being conserved in place. The painting on display in the museum exhibit is a painstaking reconstruction of thousand of tiny pieces of paint found on the floor of the loggia by museum staff. You can view it at https://israeltours.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/secco-loggia.jpg

Secco wall painting

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Roman Bath House from Herodium

One of the most exciting new installations that I saw in the Israel Museum’s renovated archaeology galleries was the display of a part of  the laconicum (hot dry room) next to the calderium of the Roman bath house that was found at Lower Herodium. I arrived to see the museum staff putting the final touches to the installation that shows clearly all the components: the hypocaust, the underfloor heating system where the floor is supported by stone pillars (pilae stacks) and the clay tubes in the walls to let the heat pass through; the plasterwork and fresco paintings on the wall; the mosaic floor.

Nearby is another square mosaic floor with a geometric, intertwined circle and pomegranates (one of the 7 species that grows in the land of Israel and characteristic Jewish motif of this period) in each of the corners. You can see this mosaic on site at Lower Herodium in the main tepidarium if you climb onto the roof of the bath house (though I learned that the one in the museum is the original and on site is a copy). If you look to the right, there is another mosaic in the small tepidarium designed as an opus sectile pattern of tiles.

I didn’t see any other artifacts from Herodium being readied for display – I was hoping to see the 3 sarcophagi that were discovered.