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This scene is set in the Stabian baths at Pompeii. In the foreground one woman playfully splashes another bathing in the 'frigidarium', a cold bath. Others gather in an undressing room beyond. The artist based this work on photographs of the remains of the baths, revealed by archaeologists in 1824. He has made them more luxurious by adding a marble floor and walls which would more usually have been found in larger imperial baths. The Dutch-born artist Alma-Tadema achieved enormous success in Britain with carefully researched scenes like this of daily life in the ancient Roman world.

May 2011