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  • Peter Linnett

A Remarkable History

Those of you who know my work well, or have attended my recent talks, will be aware that I am as fascinated by the process of decay as I am with the act of creation.

interior of a villa in Herculaneum

As a sculptor and designer, I have to accept that my work will not be pristine forever. The object which is going to present itself to future generations will be as much a product use (and abuse) as is a product of my imagination. And I therefore like to understand something of how time will treat my work.

So I am always excited by the opportunity to observe and study antique objects.

detail of a table in Herculaneum villa

My recent visit to the archaeological site of Herculaneum was a rare opportunity to take this fascination to an extreme.

Herculaneum, along with its more famous neighbour Pompeii, nests at the foot of Vesuvius. It is a short and very worthwhile train ride from one of my favourite cities - Naples.

detail of a table in Herculaneum villa

As everyone knows, in AD79, a cataclysmic eruption of Vesuvius wiped out the populations of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and buried both cities under metres of volcanic ash and rocks.

Admittedly, exposure to a searing pyroclastic surge, tons of molten lava, and a cascade of volcanic debris, is not a common contributor to the patina of antique furniture; and neither, for that matter, is entombment for nearly two millennia, followed by painstaking re-exposure by teams of cautious archaeologists. But the remarkable and exceptional history of the objects which have been unearthed here has embedded in them the ghosts of events which we can barely comprehend.

There are the marks of horrific and terrifying events, yes - but also evidence of the everyday. Through these objects, we experience, perhaps, our closest encounter with people from whom we are otherwise isolated by the fragmentation of history.

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