Fact Check

Are Mosaics of Cats Discovered in Pompeii, Italy, Real?

Or are they just very creative artificial renderings?

Published Dec 14, 2022

Updated Dec 15, 2022
 (Sebastiano Vianello/Facebook)
Image Via Sebastiano Vianello/Facebook
Claim:
A series of mosaics in a newly discovered villa in the archaeological ruins of Pompeii, Italy, depict various cats in rich detail.

A series of intricate, detailed photographs of mosaics depicting cats allegedly taken from a recently discovered villa among the ruins of Pompeii in Italy went viral in early November 2022. 

Shared by Sebastiano Vianello, the post claimed that the images were from a villa named "Villa dei Gattini" (Villa of the Kittens) in the archaeological site of Pompeii. 

Considering Pompeii was destroyed in a volcanic eruption many centuries prior, some of the photographs depicted unusually vivid colors and astonishing detail.

These images were not real, however, according to a post on the creator's website, which he made in December 2022. The post was also swiftly debunked by Italian fact-checking news sites, which pointed out no official news existed of a new-found villa, nor was the villa seen on a site map. In other words, there was no discovery of a "Villa dei Gattini" in Pompeii. Vianello, who describes himself as an artist with an "immoderate passion for cats," wrote a post on his site (the translation below is from Google Translate) stating:

On November 4, 2022, I published a post announcing the discovery, in the archaeological site of Pompeii, of a domus richly decorated with mosaics depicting cats. Obviously the "Villa of the kittens", as the archaeologists would have immediately called it, does not exist, and unfortunately never will. The post was obviously and irrefutably ironic, a divertissement, as are all my stories, which are born to give meaning, an outline, to the images I create.

Incredibly that post went viral collecting over 30,000 shares within a few days! Obviously, the denials with lots of articles from accredited debunking sites didn't take long, which you can find by doing a simple Google search with the key "Villa dei kittens", and reporting the post as "fake news" in all shares.

His website and Facebook page feature artwork of cats. Due to the virality of the post, he was also selling the prints online. 

On Nov. 6, 2022, Vianello described how he used the artificial intelligence tool Midjourney to create the images. 

Given that the creator himself denied that the images were real, we therefore rate this claim as "False." 

Sources: 

"Chi Sono." Mjseba, https://www.mjseba.com/blank-1. Accessed 14 Dec. 2022.

"La 'Villa dei Gattini' di Pompei non esiste." Facta, 10 Nov. 2022, https://facta.news/notizia-falsa/2022/11/10/villa-gattini-pompei/. Accessed 14 Dec. 2022.

"La villa dei gattini a Pompei e quegli affreschi solo sui social." Bufale, 5 Nov. 2022, https://www.bufale.net/la-villa-dei-gattini-a-pompei-e-quegli-affreschi-solo-sui-social/. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.

"Map of the Excavations of Pompeii." Pompeiisites.org, https://pompeiisites.org/wp-content/uploads/mappa-1-novembre-2022-D-scaled.jpg. Accessed 14 Dec. 2022.

"POMPEI - 06 - 45x30 Cm." Mjseba, https://www.mjseba.com/product-page/pompei-06-45x30-cm. Accessed 14 Dec. 2022.

"Pompeii | History, Volcano, Map, Population, Ruins, & Facts." Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Pompeii. Accessed 14 Dec. 2022.

sebastianovianello. "L'incredibile 'Casa Dei Gattini' Di Pompei..." Mjseba, 11 Dec. 2022, https://www.mjseba.com/post/l-incredibile-casa-dei-gattini-di-pompei. Accessed 14 Dec. 2022.

Updates

15 Dec. 2022: Additional source from Bufale.net.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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