What Was a Pinacoteca in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome?

In Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, a Pinacoteca was a specific type of building used to house paintings and other works of art. The term “Pinacoteca” comes from the Greek words “pinax,” meaning “tablet,” and “theke,” meaning “box” or “container.”

What Was the Purpose of a Pinacoteca?

The primary purpose of a Pinacoteca was to display artwork for public viewing. These buildings were typically located in prominent areas, such as near temples or marketplaces, so that they could be easily accessed by the general population. In addition to displaying artwork, some Pinacotecas may have also served as places for artists to gather and exchange ideas.

The History of Pinacotecas

The earliest known Pinacoteca was built in Athens in the 5th century BCE. This building housed a collection of paintings by famous Greek artists, including Polygnotus and Zeuxis. Over time, other cities throughout Greece and Rome constructed their own Pinacotecas, each with their own unique collections.

In Rome, the first Pinacoteca was built by Lucius Cornelius Sulla in the late 1st century BCE. This building contained a collection of portraits of famous Roman generals and statesmen.

What Types of Artwork Were Displayed?

Pinacotecas housed a variety of artwork, including paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and frescoes. The collections often included works by famous artists from Greece and Rome, as well as pieces from other parts of the ancient world.


Paintings were one of the most common types of artwork displayed in Pinacotecas. Many paintings depicted scenes from mythology or history, while others were portraits or still life compositions.


Sculptures were also a popular type of artwork displayed in Pinacotecas. These pieces were often made from marble or bronze and depicted gods, goddesses, and other important figures from ancient mythology.

Mosaics and Frescoes

Mosaics and frescoes were another common type of artwork found in Pinacotecas. These works were typically created by covering walls or floors with small tiles or plaster, respectively, to create intricate designs or scenes.


In Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, Pinacotecas played an important role in the display and preservation of art. These buildings allowed the general public to view famous works by some of the most talented artists from around the world. Today, many modern museums have taken inspiration from these ancient structures to create their own galleries for public viewing.