|artist unknown "Painter Completing a Portrait" 1st Century CE |
National Archaeological Museum, Naples, Italy
This scene is from the 1st century CE, a wall painting from the ancient city of Pompeii (region VI, insula 14, building 42.) It depicts a painter completing a portrait while another woman looks on. Women, like all people, have always worked, and there have always been women working outside what we now consider the "traditional" sphere of the home. It often surprises people to learn that in the ancient world women filled a wide array of jobs outside the home including medicine, importing and exporting, cloth manufacture, jewelry making and selling...the list goes on and on. While wealthy female citizens' work was indeed centered more around domestic duties, and they had servants and slaves to assist them, women of the lower classes often worked in the family business or took other paying jobs to support their families. In ancient Rome painting was a trade like any other, and was practiced by both men and women, as a matter of course.