Erotic Mythical art of Pompeii. The largest group of erotic art that has been excavated from the archaeological site of Pompeii deals with the painting of mythological scenes. The tradition of mythical erotic painting dates back to Hellenistic Greece when scenes from romances were added to paintings based on epic and tragedy. This genre is generally attributed to Parrhasius of Ephasus, who was one of the greatest of the 4th century BC and amused himself by painting obscene pictures whilst specializing in painting mythology. His work was so highly respected by the Romans that Emperor Tiberius was recorded as having a painting by Parrhasius in his bedroom on Capri.
The paintings of Pompeii feature the illicit love of Venus & Mars and the exploits of Jupiter, who resorted to all manner of disguises in order to seduce the young women that took his fancy.
Other paintings of Pompeii are inspired by the theme of metamorphoses in the pursuit of love following the writings of Ovid and the mythology of Apollo & Daphne and the love of Polyphemus & Galatea.
In the Roman world the male organ was regarded as a talisman of fecundity and prosperity. Graffiti of phallic symbols are found on the walls & pavements of Pompeii as talisman to ward off envy and bring property. Shop signs depicted Mercury with an oversized phallus or Mercury with a money bag in one hand and a phallus instead of a serpent in the other. Another shop sign shows an ass mounting a lion which could represent "the world upside down" or "Patience triumphing over strength".
The meaning of the erotic art excavated from Pompeii was not understood and created much misunderstanding in the 19th century about the morals of the Roman world. In 1819, when King Francis I of Naples visited the Pompeii exhibition at the National Museum with his wife and daughter, he was so embarrassed by the erotic artwork that he decided to have it locked away in a secret cabinet, accessible only to "people of mature age and respected morals". Re-opened, closed, re-opened again and then closed again for nearly 100 years, it was briefly made accessible again at the end of the 1960s (the time of the sexual revolution) and was finally re-opened for viewing in 2000. Minors are still only allowed entry to the once secret cabinet in the presence of a guardian or with written permission.
This collection of pictures of the erotic art of Pompeii is house in the Archaeological Museum of Naples.