By M. Hoover, San Antonio College
"Roman wall painting is described as having four distinct styles, identified from the wall paintings found at Pompeii, Herculaneum, Boscoreal and other cities buried under the volcanic ash of Mt. Vesuvius. Roman mosaics either imitated the painting styles or became very abstract.
The First Style Roman wall painting, called 'Incrustation style' is thought to imitate Greek painting that created flat areas of color and 'faux' finishes (like a fake marble or oak finish). In the second style Roman wall painting, called the "architectural style," space extends beyond the room with various perspective ("illusion of three-dimensional space on a flat two-dimensional surface) devices. Roman artists came close to developing a true linear perspective.
In the Third Style Roman Wall Painting, called the "Ornate Style," pictorial illusion is confined to "framed" images, where even the "framing" is painted on. The overall appearance is flat rather than a 3-d illusion of space. The Fourth Style Roman Wall Painting, called the "Intricate Style," confines full three-dimensional illusion to the "framed images," which are placed like pictures in an exhibition. The images themselves do not relate to one another nor do they present a narrative, as in the Second Style. The Fourth Style is also characterized by the open vistas and the use of aerial perspective, as well as the elaborate architectural framing.