Rome: The Painting of an Empire at the Scuderie del Quirinale – Closing Weeks!

Art lovers visiting the Eternal City over the holiday period will have found themselves spoilt for choice with fine shows on offer in all the major galleries. For anybody here to immerse themselves in ancient Rome, however, the Scuderie del Quirinale's magnificent show Roma: Pittura di un Impero, which covers Roman painting from the 1st century BC to the 5th AD, should be a top priority.

It's a beautifully curated show – the lighting is necessarily low, yet the work is perfectly lit throughout and the large frescoes on the lower floor of the building are given enough gallery space to recreate a stunning semblance of the rooms and halls of the Roman residences they once adorned. Indeed, it came as little surprise to learn that the hanging of this exhibition had been orchestrated by somebody with a keen eye for set design – Italian theatre and opera director Luca Ronconi – and much of the work on the lower floor particularly, feels highly theatrical. The opening room includes a fresco from the Casa delle Maschere di Soluto in Palermo featuring a mask of Vecchio Pan – a nod to the highly influentially Greek art and theatre that came before. Further along, I was held captivated by the nearly nine metres of amazingly well preserved fresco from the triclinium (dining room) known as the Stanza Nera (Black Room) of Villa della Farnesina - highly decorative garlands of vine leaves hang loosely between improbably delicate white painted columns which divide the black, almost indigo, background on which the faint remains of unknown figures float in some strange, ethereal moonlit landscape...

The collection of Roman portraits on fresco, mosaic or even glass, as well as some of the most well-known Roman portraits from the Egyptian oasis of El Fayyum are the stars of the show in the upper gallery. I'd seen some of the painted funereal portraits in the British Museum in London but was once again amazed by the sheer modernity of Roman painting technique – daubs of colour and abbreviated marks that captured the essence of their subject and at first glance look stylistically so close to 16th century painting – and was more than happy to see them again here in this wonderful exhibition.

With over 100 pieces of work on display all told this is one exhibition you simply must see!

Rome: The Painting of an Empire at the Scuderie del Quirinale continues until 17 January 2010.