Yet this is not your typical representative of the Classics and Comics genre. On reading Santoro's Pompeii it quickly becomes clear that this is a work that is deeply engaged with an issue that this blog is especially interested in exploring: the use of antiquity to explore debates in contemporary art. Santoro's choice of Pompeii as a setting is multifaceted, and I only want to dwell briefly on one aspect here, as outlined by Santoro in his blog:
Pompeii started as me wanting to tell this story about working for Francesco Clemente. But that was too complicated. Too many modern details. Dash had been telling me I should make a romance and I had always wanted to do a riff on the genre. So I mashed up my classical influences - many learned from Clemente - and set the whole thing in Pompeii at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Working for Clemente had that feeling of going into another world - so it felt right. Plus I could play out the narrative without explaining too much. Pompeii is like a genre in itself - like stories set around the sinking of the Titanic.
There is considerable scope for a discussion of the retelling of the dynamic between Marcus/Santoro the lowly assistant and Flavius/Clemente the celebrated painter in Pompeii, but here I want to highlight the idea that the 'mash-up' of Santoro's 'classical influences' is in some ways inspired by Clemente. Two of the paintings that play a role in Pompeii are of Flavius' mistress, called simply 'the princess' and his wife Alba. The former is a full-figure, reclining, while the latter is a close-up, head-shot portrait. In 2006, Clemente painted a series of portraits of well-known figures (e.g. Salman Rushdie), as well as his wife - Alba Clemente - which bears an uncanny resemblance to the head-shot portrait of Flavius' wife, Alba.
For more on Frank Santoro, go here.