The Lost Dimension: Pruned Plants in Roman Gardens

Author(s): Kathryn Gleason

Year: 2017


This paper focuses on previously unnoticed evidence for the pruning and dwarfing of plants represented in Roman garden paintings, such as the well-known example from the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta. Dozens of other examples of detailed garden scenes are preserved at Pompeii and Herculaneum. Their trompe l'oeil effects created interior garden settings for both living and dining spaces, as well as to extended the perceived extent of actual gardens in exterior courtyards of shops, houses, and villas. In the finer examples of this type, the artist has carefully portrayed pruning marks and other horticultural practices that altered the size and natural habit of the plants portrayed. This evidence complements archaeobotanical findings by showing the above-ground appearance of garden plants attested in the archaeological record. The remains of a garden that may be linked to garden paintings were found in 2007 in the Great Peristyle at the Villa Arianna at Stabiae, near Pompeii. The author combines archaeobotanical evidence with analysis of Pompeiian garden paintings and texts, to create a reconstruction of the garden that shows how the painted gardens were experienced in three dimensions.

Cite this Record

The Lost Dimension: Pruned Plants in Roman Gardens. Kathryn Gleason. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430586)


Art Botany Gardens

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16601