“Dinner… without a friend is like the life of a lion or a wolf.” – Seneca the Younger, Roman philosopher (4 BC–AD 65)
As the ash from Mount Vesuvius began to rain down on Pompeii in AD 79, the people of the city were engaged in two of their most important daily activities: eating and drinking.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are proud to host Last Supper in Pompeii: From the Table to the Grave, the first exhibition to focus on the love of food and drink in Pompeii.
The original exhibition, organized by the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, has been adapted and expanded for a California audience and will bring to San Francisco a treasure trove of about 150 objects, including magnificent Roman sculpture, mosaics, and frescoes; household furnishings and tableware; objects of precious materials; and more, with many of these wondrous pieces traveling to the United States for the very first time.
“The incredibly preserved art, furnishings and eatables of Pompeii give us the rare opportunity to explore the Romans’ infatuation with food and wine–which is analogous to our own enjoyment of the activity today,” states Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “I am thrilled to bring Last Supper in Pompeii from the Bay of Naples to the San Francisco Bay Area, which will be the first in a series of upcoming exhibitions examining life in the ancient Mediterranean.”
Located in the sunny paradise of southern Italy, the city of Pompeii was nestled between the bountiful Bay of Naples and the vineyard-covered slopes of the formidable Mount Vesuvius. Due to the powerful eruption, Pompeii and nearby villages were completely buried under pumice and hot ash, killing thousands in the midst of their daily activities and freezing the city in this moment of time for centuries. From frescoes and mosaics, to casts of Vesuvius’s victims, to actual food carbonized by the heat of the eruption, the exhibition gives us a picture of what life was like in this thriving Roman city.
“Last Supper in Pompeii brings us into the world of ancient Rome by focusing on the particulars of everyday life, influenced by the extensive, rich, and complex relationships between food, drink, and society,” says Renée Dreyfus, Distinguished Curator and Curator in Charge of Ancient Art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “The objects on view not only capture our imagination but also whet our appetite, informing us of the glory that once was Rome.”
Attention ferry riders wishing to embark on a post-pandemic visit: From Capri, the easiest way to reach Pompeii is by taking the ferry to Sorrento and booking a tour or day trip with a private driver.