ROM. INTERIOR OF A PALACE (RESTORED).
Eye of the perspective.
The atrium, which is the one of the three main rooms of the old Roman house that lies next to the entrance (fauces), was a spacious courtyard surrounded by a colonnade, open at the top or only partially covered, in the middle of which there was a depression for the incoming rainwater (impluvium) or a fountain, and which could be protected from the sun’s rays by a large canvas.
The atrium was connected to several side rooms, which were closed by doors, and two open rooms, the latter being called alae, as they form the side wings of the atrium. The floor plan of our atrium has only these two side wings, and the panel gives an idea of one of them.
The alae were often used as a place to display representative household goods, the lararium (cult shrine) and the ancestral images of the landlord. They may also have been designed as passage rooms through which one can reach other parts of the house.
On the picture you can see in a niche to the left the gilded statue of a Neptune on a ship’s beak. The walls of this room are partly incrusted with coloured marble slabs, partly painted.
From the atrium one entered a covered room, the tablinum, whose name is derived by some from tabellae, writing tablets, and is therefore the study and comptoir room of the landlord, while others want the ancestral images (tabulae, tabellae) to be placed here, not in the alae.
(Painted by Hoffbauer).
Source: History of the costume in chronological development by Auguste Racinet. Published by Adolf Rosenberg. Berlin 1888.