Vincent Price on Pompeii and ‘feelthy’ frescoes

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here are some extracts from Price’s visual autobiography in which Price recalls his impression of Pompeii during his 1928 European tour…

‘Naples was an obvious letdown after the Eternal City, but Pompeii was much more exciting than ancient Rome. The ancient parts of Rome – the Forum, the Coliseum – are grand and impressive, but in Pompeii you really step back into the period immediately after Christ and feel part of it, not only because of the fantastic state of preservation, but because the real charm, the real reality of any period – old or modern – is not to be found in the capital, the great city, but in the typical smaller cities. I doubt it walking through the ruins of New York would possibly tell us as much about American as would the ruins of Cleveland or Kansas City or Seattle.’

‘Pompeii is wonderful, and, of course, at that time, for a boy of sixteen the ‘feelthy’ frescoes of Pompeii were really ‘jazzy.’ And for a young blond girl with a slight southern accent… very good for the powers of suggestion and attendant undecorum.’


Italy | 9-10 August 1928

capri_1928_postcardDATE August 9th
PLACE Sorrento to Capri
Left the hotel early & took a boat to Capri. A beautiful & cool ride. We went in the Blue Grotto & had lots of fun then to Capri for lunch afterwards shopping & up the mountain for a view. Catch the boat to Naples staying at same hotel. Nothing to do after dinner.

This home video film footage from 1928 (courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society) includes scenes of Naples and Capri that Vincent’s tour also visited the same year.

naples_1928_postcardDATE August 10th
PLACE Naples – Rome
This morning we took a sight seeing tour of Naples visiting the museum where most the relics of Pompeii & Herculeum are housed. After lunch the train to Rome. Arrive Rome for dinner. After dinner a raffle of a cameo more fun.


Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 9_August

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

• Check out the official website for the Museo Archeologico Nazionale.
• Vincent’s tour would spend the next four days in Rome, staying at the Hotel Ludovisi, still one of the top hotels in the city today. Click here to view the website.

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.

Italy | 7-8 August 1928

Capuchin Church 1928DATE August 7th
PLACE Florence to Rome to Naples
Today was another dreary day on these awful hot trains. We stopped at Rome for dinner, but before we went to get a hair cut & then over to a church [1] where the decorations are made of the skulls of the monks then on to Naples after a rotten dinner, chased up 4 letters. We arrived at Naples about 12:00 & then a ride in private cars to our Hotel Savoy on the bay where we could see Vesuvius [2] in all its fiery glory.

Vesuivus_1929_postcardDATE August 8th
PLACE Naples Amalphi Sorrento
This morning we left for the Amalfi Sorrento drive via Pompeii. We stopped at Pompeii & saw the whole town it was wonderfully interesting. Then on to Amalfi and much dust & heat. Stopping there for lunch then pushing on to Sorrento where we stayed at the Hotel Sirene very good. Took a swim which was marvelous. Then dinner & shopping afterwards.

SorrentoPompeii_1928This home movie footage from 1928 shows scenes from the Amalfi coast and Pompeii Courtesy of the Oklahamo Historical Society. Please lower or turn off the audio here.

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

Capuchin Church[1] The church Vincent visited is Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, or Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins located at Via Veneto in Rome. It’s ossuary, known as the Capuchin Crypt, contains the bones of over 4,000 Capuchin friars, collected between 1528 and 1870, that have been turned into decorative displays in the Baroque and Rococo style. Here’s the Italian website (here).

Vesuvius in 1928[2] In 1928, Vesuvius was still very active (see the news clipping above from 9 August 1928 or download a 1928 British Pathe film here), having last erupted in 1926. While that eruption had been minor, the effects of the early 1906 eruption was still very much evident when Vincent visited the region. This had resulted in the deaths of over 100 people were killed and much damage to the city of Naples, so much so that the 1908 Summer Olympics had to be transferred to London’s White City. The next eruption, also minor, would occur on 6 June, 1929, while a major earthquake on July 23 1930, in the Irpinia region (near Avellino), would result in 1500 people losing their lives.

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.