Like all of the frescoes in the exhibition, they were meant to be props for highly scripted social dramas that unfolded before them, amid wine, food and music. In this sense, they have as much in common with the ersatz murals painted on the ceilings of Vegas casinos as they do with the Greek originals they mimic.
The highlight is the last gallery, where the floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall frescoes from the triclinium (dining room) of Villa Carmiano have been installed. Unlike the other works, which require ample imaginative engagement, this one leaves little to the imagination.
It's an over-the-top extravaganza. Every square inch of wall space is decked out in a variety of styles that form an elaborate pattern festooned with illusionistic architectural details. Harmony and restraint give way to giddy, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink indulgence.
Big fields of rich reds, each adorned with a single winged figure, alternate with window-like rectangles depicting scenes from Greek myths, including Dionysus riding a chariot pulled by bulls; Neptune and Amymone astride a galloping horse; and Bacchus and Ceres atop a hippogriff. Images of monumental arches wrap around the room's corners. And a ochre-tinted section runs around the walls' lower third, where naturalistic images of flora and fauna alternate with burgundy panels bedecked with stylized renditions of imaginary beasts that seem to be descended from horses and sea serpents.