Jane Asher wears the Villa of the Mysteries
The Daily Mail headline ran, "I cant remember how wicked I felt the first time I wore red". And the main featured red item in Jane Asher's wardrobe (for this estimable actor was the subject of the piece) was gorgeous Isabelle de Pedro dress. "It's red with short sleeves and is covered in art prints. It’s a real conversation piece."
Yes, sure. But it isnt just "art prints", it's the most famous set of Roman paintings from Pompeii, excavated in the early twentieth century and studied intensively ever since. (The lustrous red colour is at least partly due to restoration efforts - with petroleum jelly - soon after the building was discovered.)
Asher's dress is taken from one of the grandest reception rooms of a "villa' just outside the walls of Pompeii -- featuring flagellation, the revelation of a phallus, a female "Pan" suckling a goat and (probably) the god Dionysus with Ariadne on his lap.
Quite what they represent, who knows?
Some people have thought that the room was some secret cult place for the Mysteries of Dionysus (hence the title given to the villa). If so it was hardly very secret -- the room was a public display room not a secret religious nook. Others have imagined that it was a memorial to great art, and that this rich Pompeian patron had replicated on his walls some lost great work of Hellenistic art. Again, who knows?
One thing is for sure: in the 100 years since it was discovered, it has become THE icon of Pompeii. You can find it on ash-trays, on bathing products (it was all over the freebies in my hotel in Pompeii), not to mention fridge magnets, post-cards and postcards.
A pity that neither Asher nor the Mail knew what she was wearing. But, snooty as I feel, the truth is I'd give my eye teeth for one of those dresses.