Villa of the Mysteries Mural Cycle in Twentieth-Century Watercolor by Maria Barosso (KM 2000.2.1 - 7)
Born on August 21, 1879, Maria Barosso was a native of Turin in Northern Italy. She was trained as an artist at the prestigious Accademia Albertina in that city, from which she received her degree with honors. For a time after that she was appointed instructor of drawing in the public schools. Moving to Rome, she became the head of drawings for the Superintendency of Monuments for Rome and Lazio.
The Centerpiece of the present exhibition
is a series of twentieth-century watercolor panels that represent the famous
ancient fresco from the house at Pompeii now known as the Villa of the
Mysteries. These invaluable copies of the Pompeian painting were
commissioned and brought to the University of Michigan through the resourcefulness
and foresight of Francis Willey Kelsey, Professor of Latin Language and
Literature at the University of Michigan from 1889 until 1927.
Kelsey seems to have had a number of motives for commissioning the Barosso
copies of the the paintings in the Villa of the Mysteries. The ancient
frescoes, which had been uncovered for only some fifteen years prior to
Kelsey's commission, gained almost instant fame in archaeological and art
historical circles and were likewise fairly well known to the general public.
Kelsey apparently wished to have faithful copies of the frescoes in order
to make them available for study in the United States. Since the arrival
of the paintings in Ann Arbor, only two panels have ever been exhibited
for the public; some have also been used occasionally for teaching purposes
at the University. Thus, mounted some seventy years after Kelsey's
death, the present exhibition finally achieves Kelsey's purpose in commissioning
the production of accurate copies of the ancient frescoes in the Villa
of the Mysteries.
-- Elizabeth de Grummond, from "Maria Barosso, Francis Kelsey, and the Modern Representation of an Ancient Masterpiece," from Gazda, ed. The Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii: Ancient Ritual, Modern Muse (Ann Arbor, 2000).
Scene showing a pan, panisca, and frightened woman. 5/6 scale replica