The second style, described in detail by Vitruvius, could be named the “Architectural Style“; it was introduced in Pompeii in the early 1st century BC (although it developed earlier in Rome) and reworking some elements of the earlier style.
Images and landscapes began to be introduced to the first style around 90 BC, and gained ground from 70 BC onwards, along with illusionistic and architectonic motives.
Decoration had to give the greatest possible impression of depth. Imitations of images appeared, at first in the higher section, then (after 50 BC) in the background of landscapes which provided a stage for mythological stories, theatrical masks, or decorations.
During the reign of Augustus, the style evolved.
False architectural elements opened up wide expanses with which to paint artistic compositions. A structure inspired by stage sets developed, whereby one large central tableau is flanked by two smaller ones. In this style, the illusionistic tendency continued, with a ‘breaking up‘ of walls with painted architectural elements or scenes.
The landscape elements eventually took over to cover the entire wall, with no framing device, so it looked to the viewer as if he or she was merely looking out of a room onto a real scene.
Basically, the more developed Second Style was the antithesis of the First Style.
It is characterized by use of relative perspective (not precise linear perspective because this style involves mathematical concepts and scientific proportions like that of the Renaissance) to create trompe l’oeil in wall paintings.
Instead on confining and strengthening the walls, the goal was to break down the wall to show scenes of nature and the outside world. Much of the depth of the mature Second Style comes from the use of aerial (atmospheric) perspective that blurred the appearance of objects further away. Thus, the foreground is rather precise while the background is somewhat indistinctly purple, blue, and gray.
This style opened up the wall by providing an illusion of windows and porticos which looked outward onto imaginary scenes painted with realistic shading and deep perspective, creating the illusion that one is looking through the wall at a scene beyond. Painted architecture in this style tended towards the heavy and substantial, with multi-point perspective sometimes giving an Escher-like effect.
Examples of the second style is found in the triclinium of the Villa Oplonti, in the Villa of the Mysteries, and frescoes from the Villa of Boscoreale, now housed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Archaeological Museum of Naples.
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