top of page

Lilly's courtyard
Exhibition Impluvium - Curated by Óscar Faria

Galeria Àngeles Baños
Badajoz, Spain

Tapestry and ceramics


The exhibition “Impluvium” was born at the end of the summer of 2021, in an epiphany that happened after a visit to Castro do Monte Padrão, near Santo Tirso, a city located 30 km north of Porto. There, on a sunny afternoon, the archaeological site, which has an interpretive center formed by information boards, reveals images discolored by sunlight, giving them an anachronistic sepia sensitivity, as if they were captured in the beginnings of photography.

The construction of this site began in the 9th century BC, highlighting the oldest buildings, of a circular plan family, and the ruins of Roman houses, from the first century AD, namely the South Domus, in this case a dwelling for a single independent, which particularly interests us for this collective, because in the text included in the informative and pedagogical board there is the word “impluvium”, whose function, according to the prose present there, would be “an opening in the roof” and around which would be distributed the various gardens of the house: “The paved patio is equipped with an underground drainage system to drain rainwater”.

Curiosity, recorded by cell phone in photographs, led to a past that accumulated extensive information about the “impluvium” and consolidates the concept of an exhibition with several layers of reading: archaeological, architectural, poetic, social, controlling and political. For this, he took as a model the House of the Tragic Poet, located in Pompeii, a Roman city destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. The ruin reappeared in November 1824, mainly due to its pictorial ornamentation, found in an excellent state of conservation.

The name given to this discovery is due not to the occupation of the owner, but to a mural located between the tablino, a small wall and the peristyle, then interpreted as being that of a poet reciting tragic verses to one visibly frightened by the narrative accepted - today, the most commonly known version is that this work represents a mythical Greek episode: the moment in which Princess Alceste offers her life to save that of her husband, Alcaeus, who had forgotten, at the wedding feast, to make a sacrifice to Artemis, the faithful goddess of wild hunting and hunting.

There is, however, another proximity in the panels that decorated the poetry of the house. Some of the paintings make direct reference to the “Iliad”, which is why it was also known as “Casa Iliad” and “Casa Homerica”. This dwelling had an “impluvium”, which according to a more precise definition was a species mainly in marble, located doubly ornamented with a wall, which had one function: a decorative tank, as the base was often ceramic with geometric motifs. In this structure, a water mirror was formed, which added another aesthetic layer to the place, the site being embellished by a statue or a fountain. The other purpose of the “impluvium” was to serve as a water reservoir, collected in a cistern located under the building.

The fact that the floor of the “impluvium” is porous, or that there are small ones between the ceramic or marble slabs that form it, also allowed it, especially in summer, to acclimatize the house. On the ground, about 30 cm below ground level, this structure strengthens a relationship with nature, namely with rain or lack, which falls directly through a direct opening to the sky, the “compluvium”, The place of roofs with an interior layout: it is possible as pleasant as the nights of space in a space with characteristics, which was also the public place of the house, where the guests were received.

We are, therefore, facing a place that was also a symbol of power – only the richest classes had a house with an “impluvium” – which, in a way, extended the public space, adding to it an aesthetic dimension, above all. in the architectural details, in the works of art (mural paintings, sculptures, tiles, objects) and even in this close connection with the passing of time (shadows, clouds, stars, moon phases, sun, heat and cold).

The ecological dimension also stands out in this place: through a simple system, not only necessary for gardens, but also for an environment that, on hot days, provided a well-being inside the house – it is not by chance that the interior, in In some cases, restore an idea of ​​“impluvium” in yours, something that for decades in projects has been counting on the climate changes of the last ones, such as the global project and a consequent sequence of water.


In the first room of the gallery, a dialogue is proposed between works by three authors. The centerpiece is “Lilly's courtyard” (2022), by Flávia Vieira, an installation composed of fabric, ceramics and steel structures. Based on the idea of ​​an atrium, the space where the “impluvium” was located, the artist looked for examples in modernist architecture that would prolong the public/private dichotomy inside a house. Inside and outside, inclusion and exclusion, law and crime, are several of the oppositions that are played out on a daily basis, knowing that these problems have extensions in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres, namely in the relations between the different classes.

Flávia Vieira starts from two projects: the café “Samt & Seide” (“Velvet and Silk Cafe”) designed by Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich for the exhibition “Die Mode der Dame” (“Women's Fashion”), held in Berlin, in 1927, in which the curtains created a game between private and public spaces, while, at the same time, they assumed a performative dimension, in the sense that they assumed themselves as living elements when relating to the body: they are pulled, opened, closed. , … The other inspiring example of the artist was the Villa Tugendhat, also designed by Mies van der Rohe, in Brno, Czech Republic – created for a Jewish family, the house was occupied by the Gestapo during World War II, having been later windows were destroyed and almost all the furniture was stolen.

“Lilly's courtyard” thus makes a direct reference to Lilly Reich's proposals. As if Flávia Vieira sought to condense the experience of being in an atrium from the Roman period to modernism. At the same time, the title highlights the female experience of this space, since the place of women in the classical period was mainly reserved for private divisions, that is, for invisibility. However, as the impluvium is the place in the house that is most open to guests, it can be said that it was in this place in the house that the lady of the house played a more active role. This feminine presence is evidenced in the ceramic elements that represent the weavings, such as the hair, the hand and the foot, accessories of a fantasy, fragments of a persona divided between intimacy and community representation. It should be added that some studies point out that ancient villas contained curtains (“portières”) in the passages between the different compartments, with the function of protecting them from temperature and light. In this sense, the proposal presented here by the artist thus makes reference to this textile solution that was already used in the Roman period.



Óscar Faria


Participating Artists: Rita Sobral Campos, Ana Cardoso, Ramiro Guerreiro, Fernando José Pereira, Eduardo Peterson, Flávia Vieira and Sara Chang Yan.

bottom of page