When the Leverhulme-funded phase of research began, in 2002, the team had already created a substantial database of source material including new and archival photo-documentation from Pompeii, ancient accounts, depictions of deteriorated or lost frescoes, and interpretations of Roman stage formats and scenic practices.
The team then set about creating 3-dimensional digital visualisations of several of the architectural structures to be found in the ancient, perspectival frescoes.
The structural qualities of each architectural element were assessed to determine how the various components could have been used and integrated into edifices that, if physically realised, could have fit together and “stood up.” In some cases, scenic elements, such as curtains and painted scenic panels were similarly modelled and tested within the structures.
Where the painting had been removed from its original architectural location, we used digital, 3D models to recreate the original room's decorative ensemble, and simulate other ambient qualities of the space including patterns of light and shadow which conditioned viewing, and vistas available to those in the space; standing, sitting, reclining, or moving.
De-coding perspective in skenographia
The analysis of perspectival schemes in skenographic frescoes is essential for the extrapolation of three-dimensional architecture from a two-dimensional composition. It reveals how architectural elements connect with each other and, more importantly, assists in gauging how much depth is represented in the painting.
There is no single solution for calculating the depth of the various elements of these architectural structures since many of the frescoes contain multiple, contradictory perspectival lines. However, one approach, which produces satisfactory results in most cases, is to hypothesize depth by concentrating on the predominant perspectival scheme used in the wall painting, and ignoring secondary perspectival lines.
This method helps us to perceive what Roman viewers may have more readily perceived as a distinction between "fictive" and "real" elements, i.e. between evocations of two-dimensional scenic panels and three-dimensional scenic architecture. In a number of cases, the frescoes seem to evoke not only different forms of theatrical presentation, but even different viewing positions from within the theatrical auditorium (cavea).